I call it: "Open Thread With Two Goats Wearing Sweaters"


Hey, goats, what is that, cashmere? Ha ha ha ha heh.

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Mr Brooks seems to have vast experience of life.

mmghosh's picture



It is good that he wants to really get us to understand how ennobling suffering is.

First, suffering drags you deeper into yourself.


Then, suffering gives people a more accurate sense of their own limitations, what they can control and cannot control. When people are thrust down into these deeper zones, they are forced to confront the fact they can’t determine what goes on there.


People in this circumstance often have the sense that they are swept up in some larger providence.


The right response to this sort of pain is not pleasure. It’s holiness. I don’t even mean that in a purely religious sense. It means seeing life as a moral drama, placing the hard experiences in a moral context and trying to redeem something bad by turning it into something sacred.

Deeply profound.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

Thanks for the Link, Manish, Suffering is Something I am on...


...far too intimate of grounds with of late...so maybe I will finally do some writing on the subject, a full multi-page Diary...except it hurts, causes pain to write...lol


But I'm working it at last.


Thanks, Traveller


I Am Shocked How Badly Venezuela is Falling Apart



CARACAS, Venezuela -- Grappling with scarcities of sugar, milk, cornmeal and other basic foods, the Venezuelan government Tuesday unveiled a new electronic identification system for shoppers that critics say is a modern version of a ration card. President Nicolas Maduro described it as a means of “safeguarding food sovereignty.”


The system will employ electronic fingerprint IDs similar to those used to identify Venezuelan voters to register shoppers who purchase goods at the state-run grocery chains Mercal, Bicentenario and PDVAL. Announcing the system last month, Maduro said it will assure food supplies for 84% of Venezuelans. He did not speak to the impact on the other 16%.


The purpose of the system, Maduro said, is to guard against the purchase of large quantities of food at cut-rate government prices to be marked up and resold on the black market, where some experts have estimated 40% of all subsidized food ends up.


Other reasons cited by analysts for food scarcities include the decline in recent years in farm production they say is caused by price controls that wipe out farmers’ profits. Another factor is the government’s cash shortage, caused in part by diminished oil revenues, which has restricted its ability to finance the imports on which Venezuelans depend for many basic food items, as well as toilet paper and disposable diapers.



I have treated Chavez and his socialism with a benign neglect, I wished him and Venezuela well, even defending this experiment from time to time...but I seem to have been wrong.


The Colombian model of development, or Brazilian, seems to be working out much better.


Best Wishes, Traveller

Some unravelling seems to be going on


Certainly the command economy price fixing looks to be having bad effects, and the murder rate is also objectively terrible.


But I'll wait to see the Chavistas lose an election before deciding they're not overall serving the public's interest.

What Faith...


...both in elections and in command economies.


Bush won in 2004, but I do not take that as proof that he was the optimal choice to serve the public interest.


If the Chavistas win another election it can mean many things. It can mean that the opposition is disorganized, split, ineffective, or even creepier. It can mean the Chavistas are better campaigners, and know how to leverage the advantage that being in power brings to any campaign. It can mean that a majority of Venezuelan voters are misinformed or stupid, or both.


Here is what I've been saying for years: Venezuela is being run into the ground by a bad government. This bad government is the result of an upper class that has long been indifferent to lower class needs and unwilling to invest in productive capacity. Venezuela is a textbook oil curse nation sprinkled with Latin American populism and lopsided income distribution.


For various reasons the American left has had a hard time understanding just how poor the Chavista government is and was. One of these reasons is that the opposition really does contain deplorable elements and has fabricated propaganda against the regime. There are no good political actors in Venezuela who have any power.


The US should do exactly one thing here: let it play out without intervention. It's the only way the country can ever build up a better political culture over time. There are no shortcuts.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

I didn't say anything good about command economies


I also didn't say elections were invariable indicators of the average citizen's life improving or even of the best choice available to the electorate.


But with Venezuela, an election is better signal than a lot of poor quality economic info coming out of the country that leans in different directions. IMO, you've been saying "Venezuela is being run into the ground" on too little evidence.


In contrast we both had lots of high quality info re: America's 2004 election and how it wasn't a good indicator of leadership quality.

"'Shut Up,' He Explained."

M Scott Eiland's picture

For the idiots pushing this as something to criticize the players in question over, a few painfully obvious points:

--both the owners and the MLB Players' Union agreed that in-season paternity leave was going to be allowed for players who needed it. Note that while idiot radio guys and fans have been mouthing off about this, the teammates and management for the players have either been silent or actively supported the players--and this is as it should be;

--given some of the irresponsible jackholes who populate professional sports, team management is probably thrilled that the players in question here are missing (very little) playing time to do something decent and responsible such as being present for the birth of a child;

--I can see circumstances where the judgment of an athlete to leave might be questioned (say, a golfer who chose to go to a major knowing that the arrival of the child was imminent, and who was playing well over their head and therefore was in position to win what might be the only major title of their career when the word of the impending birth came [and who therefore would be costing their caddy a substantial payoff by withdrawing]). Missing two or three games of 162 in an MLB regular season isn't one of those situations.

Here endeth the rant.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Yeah really (nt)



Come, my friends. 'Tis not too late to seek a newer world -- Tennyson

Finally, something to bring BD and Hank together


Here. Sampled some last night, and although I probably won't be abandoning my beloved Bulleit, it did seem like a very nice value.

"I don't want us to descend into a nation of bloggers." - Steve Jobs

I have begun to drink the local moonshine here in WI


Went to a wonderful party out on a farm a few months back, had a few snorts, really liked the stuff.  A friend of a friend runs a corn mash pot still.  Superb stuff, too, not at all what I'd expected. 


Also found some elderly Hmong ladies running a pot still, distilling yerlo off a rice mash.  A similar product over here

Uh Oh

M Scott Eiland's picture

Looks like the favorite illustration for Eiland's Theory of Compensatory Misery is up for another round of anguished public debate.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Foreskins are now as dangerous as polio?


That doesn't seem unduly alarmist or tendentious or anything.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

I blame Palestine. Or was it Israel?


Actually I'm pretty sure the problem is pit bulls. 

Come, my friends. 'Tis not too late to seek a newer world -- Tennyson

Circumcision. Some people just don't see


what the flap is all about.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Cutting reply. nt

mmghosh's picture


freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

Maybe because he doesn't have skin in the game..... nt

Jay C's picture


Who's Making That Argument?

M Scott Eiland's picture

I did see this, however:

Morris’s analysis further notes that half of uncircumcised boys and men will require treatment for a medical condition associated with his retained foreskin.

That's a rational basis for authorizing minor surgery, "intactivist" hysteria to the contrary be damned, and it would remain so if that percentage were an order of magnitude less.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Half of men with a foreskin will require medical treatment?


Hey you know what would be a great solution to that problem? Surgical treatment.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Glad You Agree

M Scott Eiland's picture

Particularly the part where it's minor surgery that the patient won't even remember.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

On the other hand


the people who still have one often seem to be very reluctant to part with it.    Which would seem to indicate that they think it's got some value that offsets the health costs.

Which Is Why. . .

M Scott Eiland's picture

. . .I'm inclined to call it a reasonable judgment call by parents either way--this study would have to amp up the shrill a couple of orders of magnitude to match what we've seen from the "intactivists."

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

The guy


isn't an MD and he's a leader of the Circumcision Foundation of Australia. Which is creepy in and of itself.  Meanwhile almost every other first world medical association disagrees with him.


I know you're just stirring the pot, but this is like reading a conclusion by Exxon that calls for further oil drilling as a cost savings solution for the country in the long run.

There's A Lot Of Creepy To Go Around On This Subject

M Scott Eiland's picture

However, the "intactivists" have a Secretariat-at-the 1973 Belmont level lead there. Again, this is a reasonable call for parents to make either way, and as long as the crazies are kept from banning (or mandating) the procedure altogether, I've got no problem with it being left as an issue of parental choice--particularly when those medical associations are *not* echoing the "intactivist" PETA like hysteria over the procedure.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Gonna go out on a crazy limb here


and guess that Mr. Circumcision Foundation's data and findings are a little off. But we'll see! I'm sure folks are looking into it now.


And just because some whackos made an offensive comic book about it still doesn't change the fact that it's irrevocably altering a person's genitals without consent.

Oh he'll remember it.


You know, every time he looks down.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes



an infant's left arm at the shoulder at birth will lead to a 100% reduction in left arm, elbow and hand injuries.

Genital alteration


without consent. No matter how many people do it, it's altering someone's genitals without their consent.

Miley Cyrus on drugs, and an apology to Bird Dog


"I think weed is the best drug on earth," she said. "One time I smoked a joint with peyote in it, and I saw a wolf howling at the moon. Hollywood is a coke town, but weed is so much better. And molly, too. Those are happy drugs –- social drugs. They make you want to be with friends. You're out in the open. You're not in a bathroom. I really don't like coke. It's so gross and so dark. It's like what are you, from the Nineties? Ew."


I'd like to apologize to BD, I guess the kids these days do smoke peyote.

Everything I learned about peyote was...

Bird Dog's picture

...in the last coupla days, not that I'm going to do anything about it, Miley's endorsement notwithstanding.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

Peyote is a narsty drug. Did some in Arizona


in a controlled setting, with a Navajo and some of his friends, treated as a spiritual journey. 


Peyote always produces nausea and vomiting.  You just plan for it.  Once that's over with, it's a remarkable high.  I've always suffered from bipolarity, as some of you may know.  For about six months thereafter, I never had an Up or a Down.  It shuffled the deck of my brain, so to speak. 


The boundaries between imagination and reality weren't really blurred so much as given an arbitrary definition.  Much as you might wake from a dream and reorient yourself to the reality of putting on a housecoat and head to the bathroom for the Three S-es, then getting on with your day, peyote gives you both viewpoints, the dreaming world and the real world.  Peyote has a sense of humour.  It gives the taker considerable insight into the patterns of his life.  We're like rodents, running down little trails in the grass, predictable as clockwork.  We dedicate so much of our conscious mind to ignoring the obvious.  That can't be helped:  we need to focus on our objectives and can't be mindful at all times, as the Buddhists tell us we ought to be. 


But every so often, the deck ought to be shuffled, not with a few pops of anaesthetic alcohol or bliss-inducing weed or a vacation to some tourist joint.  For lack of a vision, the people perish.  Peyote certainly isn't a recreational drug.  It's a spiritual thing and ought to be treated that way.


Well, that's probably TMI.  Just thought I'd put it out here....


Zelig's picture

....and the throw up thing. First, I've never heard of it smoked. I'm not going to bother looking it up, but it doesn't make sense, drug-delivery wise. There are a whole lot of idiots with access to great drugs, and I'm guessing that it was an idiot who gave Ms. Cyrus the peyote to smoke. And the peyote just burned up. 


You get high by chewing on the skin of the small cactus. Often it takes 2 or three buttons. It's the most bitter thing ever. Alkali. Awful. Gagging enough to make the diaphragm sore and the cramps are other side effects to chewing the skin. I believe that the nausea and the throw up thing are due to the extreme stress placed on the mouth, saliva glands, tongue, throat and digestive tract. Properly chewing the skin of three fresh peyote buttons is an extremely difficult chore, but it must be done to release the psychoactive drugs. And when you throw up, bingo, you're off for a rather pleasant ride. The actual throw up part is a relief, because you know what's coming and you're so glad that you won't be chewing any more of that awful tasting green cactus skin for a long long time. 


Enter my friends, from awhile ago. Two women dedicated to selling used clothes and figuring out how to make peyote easy to ingest. It was pretty simple. They cut the skin and some of the pulp into strips, freeze dried it, ground it into dust, and put the dust into gelatin capsules. Their dosage at the time was 3 capsules. This works. Little or zero nausea. Ever. The end. 

Me: We! -- Ali

You never watched Young Guns (1998)? -nt-



"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Please read Miley's endorsements with more care


she endorsed weed and "molly" (young people's slang for ecstasy).


Miley did not endorse peyote or especially coke -- coz, what are you, like, from the 90s? Ew.

Charles Koch of Koch Industries goes full Randian


attacking his critics as "collectivists," a concept only Randian radicals use to smear their opponents:


Collectivists (those who stand for government control of the means of production and how people live their lives) promise heaven but deliver hell. For them, the promised end justifies the means.

Instead of encouraging free and open debate, collectivists strive to discredit and intimidate opponents. They engage in character assassination. (I should know, as the almost daily target of their attacks.) ...


It's straight Randian garbanzo from The Virtue of Selfishness. Koch is fighting the good fight to rid America of communist totalitarianism.

How much


Do you suppose he paid for that WSJ article?

Whoever helped him write it was certainly overpaid


It was probably some pseudo-intellectual who works for a right wing think tank: "Sure boss, throw around Schopenhauer's name and some Rand-speak and it'll make you look like an intellectual heavy-weight".


... collectivists strive to discredit and intimidate opponents ...This is the approach that Arthur Schopenhauer described in the 19th century, that Saul Alinsky famously advocated in the 20th, and that so many despots have infamously practiced. Such tactics are the antithesis of what is required for a free society—and a telltale sign that the collectivists do not have good answers.


Of course neither Koch nor his helper have read a solitary word of somebody like Schopenhauer, who was a critic of the worker's movement and Marx and supporter of an aristocracy.


But hey, if you were an intellectually curious type or deep thinker you wouldn't spend all your time corrupting democratic and educational institutions to add a few bucks to your already enormous fortune.

Schopenhauer - I love the fact that he donated his estate

mmghosh's picture

to a charity for soldiers wounded in suppressing the 1848 revolution.  A principled conservative to the core.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

Two things I don't get


1.  The repeated use of garbanzo as a derogatory label.  It's certainly not the tastiest legume,  and is used too often in certain vegetarian restaurant menus,  but it's not bad in the form of hummus or falafel,  and is staple source of protein for many people.   What do you have against garbanzos?


2.  Even if one accepts that Charles and David Koch are 100% pure evil,  their company's total revenues are well under of 1% of the nation's GDP,  and some of that revenue is not even generated and spent in the US.   Whatever the problem is,  the Koch Brothers are a tiny fraction of it. Why the fixation on them?

Leave catchy alone

mmghosh's picture

I had to look up garbanzo and boobazi.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

What % of political spending do the Koch's represent?


We don't know, but it's likely more than the % of their business to the world economy.


These guys have their fingers in everything, from university departments to public broadcasting, to every dark money political operation that supports right wing crazies. 


They're more than symbolic of the brain-dead right wing business class that is strangling the country, they're tops or near the tops on the list of right wing fanatics who are doing the most harm to the country and planet.



1. I agree. I happen to like hummus and falafel too.


2. They are fixated upon because they use their economic power the way they do. Most companies hedge their bets to an extent, or do little political spending, or focus it narrowly on their needs. Not the Koch brothers. They are full bore ideologues who, besides lobbying copiously to support their polluting industries are also broadly funding hard-right conservatives wherever they may be found, and have done so using vehicles to conceal or delay the finding of their identity as funding sources.


Put another way, they make their bit of GDP count disproportionately for political purposes in comparison to more average economic actors. They are outliers, and outliers deserve and should not be surprised at getting extra attention.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

I'm Pretty Sure Rand Didn't Invent The Term "Collectivist"

M Scott Eiland's picture

She certainly honed calling the folks who fall into that category on their s*** to a fine art, though.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Rand was against many things. She was also for nothing.


Most political philosophers are fundamentally reactionaries.  They see something they don't like, they oppose it.  All fine and good in its own way.  Ayn Rand was a White Russian refugee who opposed Communism.  She saw the Bolsheviks as enemies: she had her reasons, rather good ones too.  That's fine, I oppose Communism, too, for some of the same reasons but mostly for different ones.  I believe Communism in some form is always waiting in the wings, biding its time, waiting to impose tyranny in the name of The People.  All these Communists need is a sufficiently dispassionate class of feudal overlords to appear. 


But it's not enough to be against things.  Rand's vision of some Perfect World had been seen before, in Plato.  And let's make no mistake here, Rand was every bit as absurdly idealistic as the Communists.  Her hatred of enforced collectives became a denial of society itself.  Randian philosophy is nothing but the dirty sock of Bolshevism turned inside out, complete with doctrine and dogma and a cadre of enforcers.   Her fallings-out with her fellow un-Communists paralleled the theological disputations among the Communists themselves.  She was, in everything but name, a fascist.  They had opposed Communism for the same reasons, and with the same vitriol.


Ayn Rand is more to be pitied than hated.  At the end of her life, penniless and alone, she would eventually apply for (and receive) Social Security.  I'm glad she lived long enough to realise American society was more than shining skyscrapers.  It's also the ordinary people in the street, who deserve the benefits of a society capable of building those skyscrapers. 

Would you care to wager that Charles Koch


traces the intellectual "foundations" of his blather about resisting collectivism to a certain brilliant political, economic and philosophical thinker? 


What a shallow, useless man. How unfortunate we are that Charles Koch seeks to pave over American society based on such a stupid, vapid ideology.


M Scott Eiland's picture

And yet, twisting the American Left into pathologically dishonest knots* trying to deal with him. Not exactly a ringing endorsement of their competence, is it?

*--waves to Harry the Dour Liar.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

The Kochs are competent


They are effective at damaging American society and the planet. 


As a student of history, I'm sure you know that lots of evil people have been competent.


What you're missing is that many of today's worst are prone to spouting Randian argle bargle in the op ed pages of the WSJ. 

And there it is

Bird Dog's picture

Our political opponents aren't just wrong, they're EVIL!

Bought right into the douchebag's narrative.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

The Kochs decimate more good before noon

brutusettu's picture

than Khan did in a lifetime. 


That's just pure evil, it takes pure energy to do that, pure energy, the dis-information they are putting in our society, some of it has worked so far, but it's not too late yet.

Funny, you could describe the United States as 'collectivist.' -



"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Roberts' Strict Constructionist Dictionary, 1st Ed.


Inspired by the court's recent ruling that Congress must define "corruption" as synonymous with "bribery" and can use none of the more broadly construed definitions of the term, I think it's time to begin work on a new dictionary. This will be the world's first English dictionary based on the single-entry system. That is, each word in the dictionary can have one and only one possible definition, viz. the most 'literal' or widely attested definition. Here's a sample entry drawn from the Collins English Dictionary:  

blue  (bluː)


1. any of a group of colours, such as that of a clear unclouded sky, that have has wavelengths in the range 490--445 nanometres. Blue is the complementary colour of yellow and with red and green forms a set of primary coloursRelated: cyanic
2. a dye or pigment of any of these colours
3. blue cloth or clothing: dressed in blue
4. a. a sportsperson who represents or has represented Oxford or Cambridge University and has the right to wear the university colour (dark blue for Oxford, light blue for Cambridge): an Oxford blue
  b. the honour of so representing one's university
5. ( Brit ) an informal name for Tory
6. any of numerous small blue-winged butterflies of the genera Lampides, Polyommatus , etc: family Lycaenidae
7. archaic  short for bluestocking
8. slang  a policeman
9. archery  a blue ring on a target, between the red and the black, scoring five points
10. a blue ball in snooker, etc
11. another name for blueing
12. slang  ( Austral ), ( NZ ) an argument or fight: he had a blue with a taxi driver
13. slang  ( Austral ), ( NZ ) Also: bluey  a court summons, esp for a traffic offence
14. informal  ( Austral ), ( NZ ) a mistake; error
15. out of the blue  apparently from nowhere; unexpectedly: the opportunity came out of the blue
16. into the blue  into the unknown or the far distance

adj, bluer, bluest
17. of the colour blue
18. (of the flesh) having a purple tinge, as from cold or contusion
19. depressed, moody, or unhappy
20. dismal or depressing: a blue day
21. indecent, titillating, or pornographic: blue films
22. bluish in colour or having parts or marks that are bluish: a blue fox ; a blue whale
23. rare  See blue blood aristocratic; noble; patrician: a blue family
24. ( US ) Compare red relating to, supporting, or representing the Democratic Party

vb, blues, blueing, bluing, blued
25. to make, dye, or become blue
26. ( tr ) to treat (laundry) with blueing
27. slang  ( tr ) to spend extravagantly or wastefully; squander

NOTE: the court has ruled that Congress can make no law treating colors outside the given wavelength as "blue." Colors 446 and higher are green, colors 489 and lower are violet. Also, there is only one blue: the entire spectral range now counts as just one color. No more indigo, or azure, or lapis, cobalt, ultramarine cyan teal navy or cerulean. Remember, words mean things. Just fewer things than previously.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Chroma Key, Colorblind


On a beach twenty yards from the road-side
I'm back again, 6:00 A.M., far from sleep
Must be 290 blue on the water
It's grey to me, 3 CV is all I see


Green can only hold you in the garden
Too much red will go right to your head
But if it's all the same to you give me back my blue
Other colors fade anyway

I'm Colorblind, three way tragedy
Pantone memory, grey-scale eyes
Maybe I'm paranoid, yeah, that's my problem
You almost have to be when you look like me

Stopped in the shade of the road-side when the sun rose like a bomb
Tried to read the simple writing but the letters came out wrong
It's all white lines to me, oh, but, things are getting clearer
I can almost read the writing in the mirror


I'm colorblind, a free-way tragedy
Pantone memory with x-ray eyes
Where did all the color go on my radio?
You almost have to be a satellite to see

First Yves Klein, then Isak Dinesen, now Pantone 290.


Seems we're having a bit of a blue period here at The Forvm. Or is it just a bit of Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon?

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

That's fuddy


Sorry if it's been linked before, but Lessig's piece says the same thing w/out the humor, and with a little added blame on liberal justices for not being originalists.

Obamacare's recent polling


Another Fort Hood shooting

Bird Dog's picture

One confirmed dead, others injured (link).

Yesterday, the FBI announced that they were looking an army recruit suspected of planning a ‘Fort Hood-inspired jihad’.

We'll see if the dots connect.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

And the dots don't connect

Bird Dog's picture

Some other motive.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

Rumsfeld finally confronted with his lies


Another day, another horrible democracy-eroding SCOTUS decision.


Today a sharply divided majority struck down sections of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (aka, "McCain-Feingold") limiting aggregate campaign donations. Already being hailed as Citizens United 2, the decision further opens the floodgates to unrestricted political donations during election season.  


In order to reach this decision, the court had to find that the law does not advance the only compelling state interest it has recognized in limiting campaign donations, which is the possibility of quid-pro-quo corruption of public office. Let's take a look at the court's reasoning on this point, shall we? 

"Spending large sums of money in connection with elections, but not in connection with an effort to control the exercise of an officeholder's official duties, does not give rise to such quid pro quo corruption," Roberts wrote in the ruling. "Nor does the possibility that an individual who spends large sums may garner 'influence over or access to' elected officials or political parties." 

See how that works? Under the decision, a single donor can now contribute as much as $3.6 million in aggregate to a single candidate, but the court sees no way at all that that type of outsized donation could be construed as buying influence over the candidate's official duties, or buying enhanced access, etc. Nope, no way backing up a truck full of cash to someone's campaign headquarters (and to the soft-money group's headquarters just down the block) could possibly be construed as an attempt to unduly influence policy decisions. Nopers, nuh-uh, nosirree bob.


As you can see, the majority here is employing a judicial doctrine long held sacred among "conservative" or "originalist" members of the court: 


"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Isn't it time to take a page


from the conservative playbook and propose a constitutional amendment? It could be very simple.

Contributions of money to political campaigns shall not be considered speech.

The polling is in overwhelmingly in favor.

"I don't want us to descend into a nation of bloggers." - Steve Jobs

Good Luck With That

M Scott Eiland's picture

But yes, that would be a workable approach if the two thirds of both houses of Congress along with the legislatures of three fourths of the states could be convinced to cooperate.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Ah, right, Scott


And the balanced budget amendment has a chance of passing?


These things are bludgeons, that's all.

"I don't want us to descend into a nation of bloggers." - Steve Jobs

What Part Of "Good Luck With That" Isn't Clear? -nt-

M Scott Eiland's picture


. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Maybe it was the civics lecture


part that might not have been exactly on point?

"I don't want us to descend into a nation of bloggers." - Steve Jobs

Yes, Wags


While I'd oppose your amendment,  it would be a proper and constitutional way to get what you want.

Ah, hell. When it was Obama not taking federal election funds


and preferring to raise his own , I recall a little pushback.  Not much, though.  This isn't tu-quoque, saying everyone does it, so it's okay.  I'm saying the candidates all hate the fundraising, it's a distortion of democracy, Congress could fix it - but this isn't a big deal.  Citizens United was a bigger deal.  It affects a handful of donors, all of whom resent being hit up for money.  I hope this goads Congress into some legislation because it will affect both parties.  There's tons of liberal money out there, too. 


I mean, I despise this decision.  But these Conservative justices have maybe done us a favour, though they don't realise it.  Money which might have gone into SuperPACS will now go into campaigns and we can spot it.  If the GOP finds itself cornered by Tea Party money now, it will only get worse between now and 2016.  They have every reason to fix this, now.

With all due respect


I think you and Jordan are both slightly misreading the decision,  each in a different way.


The SC left in place the limits ($2600 per candidate per election) on direct contributions to individual campaigns.   So, contrary to Jordan, no truckloads of cash at campaign headquarters,  unless the $2600 was in old-style halfpennies.  There can now be giant piles of cash but campaign headquarters is the one place on earth those piles cannot show up.


What the SC lifted were limits on total contributions by a person.   Under the old rules,  for example,  it would have been illegal for a donor to give $500 to each Democrat running for Congress, because the aggregate would have exceeded the limit.   The case brought before the court was, in fact, someone who wanted to give the $2600 limit to each of 28 candidates.   If giving a campaign is $2600 is not bribery,  it is hard for me to see why giving $2600 to each of two different candidates is bribery.  


Now of course the real issue is independent or "independent" committees.  The anti-free-speech activists who came up with the $3.6M number are counting donations to committees.  (I note the text in the article Jordan linked is different just now from what I remember a few hours ago - it is now much clearer,  previously they made it sound like the $3.6M was to the candidate).   So,  contrary to Blaise, this decision will enhance the power of PACs,  relative to traditional campaign funds.




If you read my edited comment,


I made it a little more clear that the truckloads of cash would be going to the PAC down the road from the candidate's election headquarters. 


I'm not sure if you buy the argument that PACs eliminate the likelihood of quid-pro-quo arrangements between officeholders and large donors, but the conservative Supremes do, hook, line & sinker. In fact the decision hinges on the notion that spending millions of dollars on a candidate's behalf is a completely different thing from putting millions of dollars in their bank accounts to spend on their own behalf. 


It's like the following arrangement. Let's say I'm a student of yours and I come to you asking, nay, begging for an A in your Implied Physics course. I offer you a new Chrysler LeBaron. Now in doing so I've no doubt already violated university policy, and you would further violate policy if you accepted. 


So let's do this. I'll buy a nearby Chrysler dealership and then have a big sale. Free Chrysler LeBarons! We kind of forget to advertise, though. My cutout discusses my grade with your cutout, you drive away with a free car, I lose a few hundred thousand worth of automobiles off my lot and I get the grade I wanted. Perfectly legal and non-suspicious according to the Supreme Court.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Side note:


In fact the decision hinges on the notion that spending millions of dollars on a candidate's behalf is a completely different thing from putting millions of dollars in their bank accounts to spend on their own behalf.


Only 4 of the justices believe that.  Thomas agrees with you that the distinction is BS,  and thus he believes there should be no limit on direct contributions, either.

I can't get over how good your analogy is.


So the university decides to get serious about this grades for gifts scandal.  They pass a limit - faculty can't accept anything of value greater than $5.   Then some wealthy student (A) decides to give every professor on campus a $5 coffee mug,  for an aggregate value of $2500.  I'm not sure why this is a such a gigantic problem.  It's pretty much what McCutcheon wanted to do.


But it gets worse!  Some other wealthy student (B) is less upstanding than (A).  He wants to bribe his professor,  and knows that his professor does Goat Transgressive Dressing,  and is trying to make tenure,  but the prof is having trouble getting enough data,  and is not being taken seriously by the rest of the Sociology department. 


So the wealthy student starts a Goats 'n Sweaters Club,  and donates $100000 to it to buy goats, goat sweaters, and a custom painted goat club LeBaron, and (more importantly) to raise community awareness at the university about the importance of Goat Transgressive Dressing,  and provide dressed goats for interviews by social scientists.


What is the best way to combat this?


1.  Ban all student organizations, on or off campus

2.  Ban all student organizations from receiving large donations, or being too successful in fundraising

3.  Ban students from making large donations to any organizations, on or off campus

4.  Ban all organizations from discussing any topic that a professor is trying to make tenure on

4.  Go after obvious cases like (B) under existing rules, and leave everyone else alone.

Excellent analogy!


Now let's take it a step further....what should the university do about this Chrysler dealership?


1.  They could pass a rule against faculty owning or driving cars, or

2.  They could pass a rule against students owning car dealerships,  or

3.  They could pass a rule against students transferring their cars to any other person at less than Blue Book value, or

4.  They could keep their existing rule against faculty accepting gifts of significant value from students, and accept that enforcement will be less than perfect if faculty and students are allowed to own cars.


What do real world universities do?


Not quite perfect, though.


The problem is that LeBarons have nothing to do with grades or professorships, whereas soft money contributions have quite a bit to do with votes and elections. 


Maybe a better analogy would be: I purchase 1500 copies of your textbook from your publisher in exchange for an A. Now you've not only got cash in hand, but suddenly you're a hot ticket (okay, a somewhat warmer ticket) on the academic publishing market. You'll find a readier audience for articles, your publisher can't wait to hear about your next book, the tenure committee and department head are leaning in your direction with that newly endowed chair, etc. 


Presumably that arrangement would be absolutely fine with the Supreme Court with no changes, except that we'd obviously need cutouts to discuss the actual matter of my grade. Or, I might have to buy a college bookstore and order 1500 copies for inventory. I might have to buy a chain of bookstores to really impress your publisher. 


In this case I think university rules are less tricky to figure out: students shouldn't provide academic/publishing freebies to their professors.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

So in case like this


do we pass a general rule - a student cannot buy more than (say) twelve books in a semester, of any type?  Or a more specific rule that the student cannot buy more than one book by a particular professor in a particular semester? 


Or - going out a limb here - maybe we should not restrict student's book buying in general,  and just go after cases that have the appearance of bribery?


Or - going way out on a delicate, dried up twig here - should we focus on punishing the professor instead of the student?


(BTW, I wrote my second reply about the Goat Club before I saw your answer)

I don't think this is nearly as tricky as the LeBaron example.


Buying a few extra books isn't going to make no nevermind, but buying all of the publisher's overstock and commissioning a new edition would be a different thing entirely. A dozen copies might raise eyebrows, but 1500 copies would be a serious problem.


The rule could be as simple as: students can't offer substantial material support towards the career of a professor, because doing so creates an automatic conflict of interest. 

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

So comparing to the actual case at hand


Let's say we agree with Congress that $2600 is a reasonable limit for a campaign donation.  In the book case, let's say that 5 books from one prof is a reasonable limit


But then Congress then went further put a limit of $48K on all such donations put together,  and worse than that, $75K on "committee" donations.  


The equivalent in the books case would be a law saying that no person or organization could buy more than 92 books total from all US professors combined,  and worse than that, no more than 144 books in aggregate, of all types, from from any other type of author, on the theory that non-academic authors might be in cahoots with professors. 


That would be one draconian law, and while it would shut down libraries, it would certainly not be narrowly targeted toward preventing professors from being bribed.



Actually, the equivalent case would be that no student


from that school could buy more than 144 books from publishers that print that school's textbooks. You might also make rules against students owning major interests in the same publishers.  


Like I was saying, the circle is much easier to close with this analogy. It doesn't require an unreasonable "chain of inference" to connect the quid with the quo. (And neither do soft money donations.)

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Is there any place


you know of with such a 144 book rule? Consider that any reasonable size campus probably takes at least a few books from every single major publisher in the country. I think the absence of such rules indicates that few people think it's a reasonable solution. 


But let's say I buy your argument.  It's quid pro quo. Why is OK for McCutcheon to do quid pro quo with 16 Congressmen, but not 28?  That was the specific case before the SC.  


And more specifically, why is OK for each of those 28 Congressmen to take the donation, but not OK for McCutcheon to offer them?

I do know places where profs use their own published books


as textbooks, where special rules apply for purchasing those books - not that this is germane to this example, precisely.

I think the answer to your question is that we already know


what kind of girl Congress is; we're just negotiating the price. In other words, if you accept the principle that some amount X of political contributions counts as corruption, then it's just a matter of determining where the line should be drawn. Determining where the line should be drawn is preeminently Congress's job, which is a good thing seeing as they already did it. SCOTUS has now taken that job away from them.


As for why the 12 additional Congresspeople aren't at fault, I don't know that part of the law. Arguably they should be, assuming they could reasonably know whether McCutcheon was over his contribution limit.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes



As for why the 12 additional Congresspeople aren't at fault, I don't know that part of the law. Arguably they should be, assuming they could reasonably know whether McCutcheon was over his contribution limit.

So it can be bribery when one party doesn't even know there's a bribe going on?  How can that be quid pro quo?  And why just the 12? What if he mailed all the checks the same day,  how do you know which 12 of the 28 are corrupt?


But you're on fire with good analogies today:

..we already know what kind of girl Congress is...

Many jurisdictions make it illegal to offer a woman money in exchange for sex.  Now of course there are many ways to get around this, some subtle or indirect enough that even the parties involved delude themselves into thinking that's not what's going on.


Now if there's a specific and definite subterfuge - "Don't pay me, pay that guy in the green zoot suit" - "I can accept gifts if you have the receipt and they're returnable for cash" - then it's still a crime.


However, no reasonable jurisdiction makes it blanket illegal to buy a woman a gift,  or to buy too many gifts for women in the aggregate, nor does any reasonable place insist on a 6 month gap between any gift and engaging in sex,  on the presumption that such gifts are subterfuges for prostitution.


Could you justify a law saying it's OK to buy a woman dinner the same evening you have sex, but not to do so with more than 16 women in any two year period?


Your analogy: not so good.


Contributors aren't prohibited from buying TVs or giving large cash gifts to random individuals or founding theme parks: the law specifically controls money given to candidates and to PACs. In other words, it's already sex money; McCain-Feingold simply determines an appropriate figure.  

So it can be bribery when one party doesn't even know there's a bribe going on?  How can that be quid pro quo?  And why just the 12? What if he mailed all the checks the same day,  how do you know which 12 of the 28 are corrupt?

Now you're begging the question, and basically citing Roberts. The court in Buckley v. Valeo ruled that corruption can be defined more broadly than that: 

The contribution provisions, along with those covering disclosure, are appropriate legislative weapons against the reality or appearance of improper influence stemming from the dependence of candidates on large campaign contributions, and the ceilings imposed accordingly serve the basic governmental interest in safeguarding the integrity of the electoral process without directly impinging upon the rights of individual citizens and candidates to engage in political debate and discussion.

See there? No direct quid pro quo required, no bag on the table. Just the appearance that candidates are dependent on large donors is a compelling interest for Congress to intervene. 

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

What contributors are prohibited


or regulated from doing is spending money on political speech.  The fact that they can spend on theme parks or TVs demonstrates that the restrictions specifically target only speech,  a protected right, and in particular political speech,  the most protected subset of speech.


Buckley is still fine.   The limits on contributions to candidates were upheld.  The larger attempt to ban or cripple political speech by third parties is what was overturned.  People should be able to, for example, support efforts to reduce global warming through legislation, and I don't see a reason to limit how much money is raised for that effort.  Effectively discussing the issue requires discussing who has proposed what legislation and who supports or opposes it.   You call this "already sex money",  I call it public debate.


Sacrificing such discussion because it might help or hurt some incumbent is simply overreach.


Keep in mind how the first round of this mess started:  the government trying to suppress the distribution of a movie because it criticized a prominent Democratic politician.  The movie would have been allowed if it did not mention the candidate, the suppression hinged specifically on that.  I think if Turkey or Nigeria did such a thing you'd know exactly what to call it. 

Buckley is *not* still fine. The court just struck down


Buckley's central rationale for aggregate limits, viz. that they prevent people from using phoney baloney committees to get around base limits. I just cited it. The Buckley court, incidentally, sided with Congress and was deferential to the possibility that the legislature had legitimate reasons for believing base limits were not enough. Not only did Roberts toss the legislature's reasoning behind aggregate limits, he also brought his own special dictionary to the bench, redefining "corruption" to mean essentially the same thing as flat out bribery, and ordering that Congress can't use any other definition. There's nothing in the Constitution that says Congress has to abide by Justice Roberts' new definition of the word corruption, or that the Supreme Court should be the nation's official lexicographer. If Roberts keeps it up, the Supreme Court is going to have to publish an official dictionary.

People should be able to, for example, support efforts to reduce global warming through legislation, and I don't see a reason to limit how much money is raised for that effort.

How can you not? Firstly, I'm not even sure whether McCain-Feingold even reaches donations for causes like this. But for the sake of argument: if BP plc decides it wants to turn your entire county into a toxic waste holding area worth hundreds of billions to the company, and they are literally unlimited in their ability to finance candidates for county commission, sheriff, the state legislature, the governor, the state EPA, federal EPA, senators and Congresspeople, media outreach, etc. then your county is going to become a toxic sludge pit. Does that sound like the intended purpose of the first amendment to you?

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Just out of curiousity


what do you think the intended purpose of the First Amendment is?  Not a snarky question,  I really am curious what people think the purpose was.


Was taking a class once and the instructor asked "why is slavery wrong".  Thought it was a idiot question until the discussion started and it turned out that while everyone was against it,  there was nothing close to majority agreement on why it was wrong.


Until very recently, slavery was not thought to be wrong.

mmghosh's picture

One of the commonest names in the world is Abd-Allah i.e. the slave of Allah.  In many parts of the world, it still isn't - in Mauretania, a significant proportion of the population is in favour of it.  


Slavery, cannibalism, rape, incest are all common in the animal world, which indicates that they are not 'wrong' in an absolute sense.  We've decided collectively to live in a society where these things are illegal because the vast majority wish to live in this way.  Or so I think, anyway.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

Slavery was always considered to be an evil


from earliest times.  Islamic slavery has rules and the Qu'ran has a great deal to say about slavery and its abuses.  As for Mauretania, that sh*thole has been oppressing the Tamashek for centuries.  The Berber overlords are scum. 

Of course Islamic slavery has rules.

mmghosh's picture

But that doesn't mean that slavery was regarded as evil in itself.  Many slaves went on to become generals and even rulers.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

It was regarded as an evil. I've heard Islamic sermons on this.


The origins of zakat, the 10% tithe upon faithful Muslims, was among other things, to buy the freedom of slaves.  Every culture which had slaves, going back into antiquity, viewed it as evil.  Not one has ever viewed it as anything but a blight.  

Umm, what?

mmghosh's picture

The Romans, Greeks, Byzantines - almost every culture practiced slavery to the utmost. Even in the USA slavery was not regarded as evil until relatively recently. This is all well known stuff.

I agree that there has also been a strong antislavery movement in this time. If that is your point, then yes, you are right. But if you

suggest that slavery had always been regarded as evil then I must disagree.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

The Argument Against Slavery Is Pretty Straightforward, Actually

M Scott Eiland's picture

Just as life is an end in itself, so every living human being is an end in himself, not the means to the ends or the welfare of others - and, therefore, man must live for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. - Ayn Rand

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Heh. Nonsense on stilts. What is capitalism, may I ask?

mmghosh's picture

If not about workers being paid a pittance so that the capitalist (and his associates) may live well?  I'm not suggesting that this is evil, btw.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

If The Worker Can Do Better Elsewhere. . .

M Scott Eiland's picture

. . .they are welcome to do so. Slavery doesn't offer that option.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Unrestricted immigration around the world?

mmghosh's picture

Now you are being funny.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

Abraham Lincoln, August 1858


As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy.

Whata wonderful quote. Thank you.


You could re-apply to so many things.


As I would not be tortured


As I would not be poor


and so on.

"Necessary" Evil, Perhaps

M Scott Eiland's picture

John Calhoun made himself--justifiably--one of the most despised figures in US history by arguing that slavery should be viewed as a *positive good*. It's a shame that Andrew Jackson didn't get one of his well-known fondest wishes by hanging that SOB by the neck until he was dead.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

The most despised man in the American South


was the slave seller - and worse, the slave transporter.  The Stoics and later the Christians were the first to oppose slavery in the West.  Slavery had been an artifact of war.  Rome prohibited debt slavery very early, even before the Republic, though this a dubious story, from late in the Republic, one of those blithe stories told to reassure the slaveholder that he wasn't quite as bad as his ancestors.


Though your point is well-taken, though slavery was viewed as an evil, it was not sufficiently evil to put an end to it.  Many evils of the present day fall into this category.  This dichotomy goes to the heart of my own assessment of mankind, that he is a great self-excuser, very high-minded in the abstract but a loathsome hypocrite in his treatment of his fellow man.  I do believe mankind has always understood the principle that we cannot own our fellow men.  In every culture where slavery appeared, the maltreatment of slaves was treated as a crime.  You can say they didn't think slavery was an evil but those laws, going back into ancient antiquity, tell me those people knew slavery was wrong. 



You are correct that slavery was a result of war but guess what?

mmghosh's picture

IIRC, to be taken a slave was a sign of lack of courage - a true freedom loving individual would die rather than taken a slave.  Something of that filters down into today's thinking that the poor must be thus because lazy, morally defective etc.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency



David Graeber's book on Debt spends a lot of time talking about the connection between debt and slavery and how the morality of debt led moral weight to the institution of slavery.


This was not just monetary debt but also things like sparing someones life and so being owed it as a debt.


So we have 2 justifications for slavery:


1. The natural order by which the weak submit to the strong

2. The concept of debt that, due to the inability of the debtor to pay, must be discharged by slavery


Oddly enough the second one of these might be seen as the unkind interpretation of the relationship between Christian believer and Church. Again, the concept of an unpayable debt (Jesus' death on the cross to save your soul from Hell's torment) resulting in an eternal enslavement to the Church.

That's not how Christian theology works, at all.


Galatians 4:7 Therefore you are no more a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.


I find all these ignorant pronouncements about what Christians believe more that a bit disingenuous.  If you wish to know what Christians believe, you might ask me.  I might not represent all Christians, but to presume the atonement of Christ creates a master-slave relationship is frankly offensive.

If I'm honest blaise,


I dropped that in there to tweak you. Sorry, I couldn't resist. Please do note though, that I did say that it was an unkind interpretation and I did also say that it was the relationship between believer and church rather than believer and God. I am well aware that the theology does not really support it, though the history might. I am also quite sure that the Christian's do not often believe that they are literally or morally Jesus' slaves. 


But, and I realise that this is probably different in protestant upbringing as I think you are from, and also in a multidenominational environemt. But, the notion that anyone saved me from sin, and that this was somehow done to my benefit, 2000 years before my own birth is rediculous and reminds me of the ways small debts can be used to justify enslaving people. The complex systems Graeber describes that endebted people in Africa and then transported them to the slavers on the coast, and the way all of society bent to this task for moral reasons, does remind me of how all of society, good and kind people mostly, were bent towards cruelty and closing society to those in need by the twisted moral logic of the Church. I've seen the tail end of it. How something we can all sense is wrong can be made to be right by a moral code. I think this is relevant because I think we both agree that people have always seen slavery as wrong but have none the less engaged wholesale in it.


On religion, I do recognise your expertise, but I will not cede the whole field to you. I might be an atheist, but I am a Catholic athiest. I have been educated amongst Quakers and Presbeterians. I've been baptised, communed, confirmed and married in mother church. I've been catechised and I've read my bible start to finish. I feel I am at least in a position to make some observations.


Thinking as bit more on the dialectic of Church and Believer and applying the Master-Slave model of morality to it. Many of the definitions of each class of morals do fit. The master defines what is moral, the master judges what is good and bad and often that which is bad for the master is per se bad. 


Slave morality is pessimistic, it seeks to reduce all to the same terms of slavery. Individual happiness is secondary to the collective good. In fact individual happiness is seen as bad. It controls by subversion. It values kindness and gentility.


There's an interesting thought - I wonder has the Church in fact been in moral opposition to the believers all these years. The church defines and the believers subvert.

I rather thought so, seemed too obtuse for your modus


Here's how it works, rhetorically and religiously, even for Catholics.  Let's suppose we all stipulated to our imperfections.  Let's furthermore stipulate I would think your imperfections far worse than mine.  Of course, you'd think the same way, mine would be worse than yours... stupid squabble ensues, religious wars, all manner of illogical crap is promulgated....


But if we all agreed perfection was asymptotic and therefore unattainable, furthermore that the horrid  "You're Worse than Me Because [insert shortcoming here]"  was pointless and rude, what are we left with, rhetorically?  We can't say everything's wonderful and we can all commit crimes and injustices upon each other, and that there's no justification for any notions of ethics and personal morality.  We are either left with hedonism or legalism.  Crime and Punishment:  The man who has a conscience suffers whilst acknowledging his sin. That is his punishment.


There's a parable of Christ, where one servant owes the master an impossibly large sum.  The master forgives him.  The servant then goes out and threatens another servant who owes him a trivial sum.  But the parable arises in answer to a question:  "How often must I forgive my brother who sins against me?"


The answer, whether you're a Christian or an atheist or a Buddhist or an acolyte of the FSM, is a common-sense acceptance of the need for forgiveness, beginning and ending with one's own self.  There is no salvation, inside or outside the Church.  Religion is never the answer.  We are given a few years of life, more than some creatures, less than others.  We must do what we can, in the time we are given.  We can do nothing while still burdened with guilt, living in the shadows of our past.  We live along the arrow of time.  Not all our actions are wise.  Our actions, however well-intended at the time, or even done with bad intent, have consequences.  Thus we must live in the present.  The price of mindfulness is self-awareness, a terribly humbling vision.


Jordan began this thread by pointing out certain Sacred Doctrines, whereby money is power and money has become speech.  SCOTUS reached this conclusion by narrowly parsing the Sin of Bribery.  The powerful do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.  By whose lights are we to judge the judges?   I would say, by the measuring stick of corruption itself, whereby I can pay for one set of rules apply to me and another for thee.  The politicians will listen to me because I gave them money.  Justice ought to be blind to that sort of distinction and currently it is not. 



Very well put.


I would just note though that that parable does rather support my assertion of Christian devotion as slavery. Maybe Jesus wasn't shooting for a perfect analogy, but first of all the wicked servant owes an impossible sum to his master. Rather than being paid he somehow owes his employer. He is a bonded labourer or a slave. So we are all slaves to our God because we owe him an impossibly large debt - he forgave us our sins. This forgiveness is rather conditional though since once the servant steps out of line the debt of 10,000 talents is reactivated and he is tortured until it is paid.


It's a pity the parable wasn't delivered without having the wicked king personify God. It would even have been better had they been forgiving real trasgrssions instead of debts. Theft, violence, deceit.


For me it raises a lot more questions than it answers. Mathew 26:11 is another one like that.

"Very well put"


That goes w/out saying for Blaise P.


Guy's a monster at the ol' prose.

+9.6 To This Conversation...nt



Which cultures did that sign apply to?


The Greeks enslaved their captives, who often fought alongside them, when times got tough.  A slave was presumed loyal to his master.  Often, slaves had it better than freedmen.  And there were many forms of slavery, not everyone was sent to the mines, you know.


Attempting to form-fit our notions of slavery onto the ancient world, even onto modern slavery, simply won't do.  Societies change:  what's taboo today is de-rigueur tomorrow.  Who would have thought we'd have same-sex marriage even twenty years ago?  Ethics evolve and our individual moralities eventually catch up.  If the boorish rich think the poor are lazy and morally defective, they now keep that opinion to themselves, these days. 

Exactly. The great Qutuz and Baibars were slaves

mmghosh's picture

as were many of our Sultans in Delhi.  That is my point.  Slavery was/is not necessarily regarded as an evil.  Sometimes it was a way to get ahead, too.


Also eunuchs - Narses, to take an example.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

Right, but the Circassian Mamluks


didn't stay slaves for very long (as Tuan Shah found out to his dismay).

There never were any Good Old Days, that's the only conclusion


to draw from the ancient world, where a few slaves prospered and most slaves suffered. 




Depends what you mean by evil I guess.


Aristotle makes an attempt to justify it with a natural order argument, but you can see his heart is not in it. 


Thucydides does not take to moralising but you can see the horror with which the prospect of enslavement was regarded. He shows, I think, a lot of Sympathy for the Spartans trapped at Sphacteria and imples I think that their treatment was unjust.


Something else we see in Thucydides is the rapid expansion of slaves used in war. That must have undermined the classical justification for their slavery - the natural domination of the strong over the weak or cowardly. 


I do wonder if the reason we see a lack of enthusiasm for the institution of slavery from these rich Greeks was that it wasa fate that befel rich Greeks like them, should they be captured and not randsomed. I wonder if they had as much concern for the de facto slavery of marginal farmers or other poor people.


In that they would reflect us and our mores today pretty well.

Cant. The Athenians had no compunctions when it came

mmghosh's picture

to the Melians - whatever Thucydides' horror may have been, and I have said there have always been anti-slavery folk through the ages, the fact is that that most large economies ran on the labour of slaves (and still do in some part).


I note the casual mention of slave boys and girls doing various activities in Plato.


As for Christians, the Bible has plenty to say about the "kind" treatment of slaves.  No horror there.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

Christianity was a slave religion.


Galatians 3:28:  There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.


The book of Philemon, a runaway slave takes this letter back to his master, who is instructed to treat his slave as his brother. 


I do wish those who would cast aspersions upon Christianity would actually read the Bible.  It would be so helpful in these discussions.  Christianity did stand up against slavery when the secular world thought it all quite legal and proper, as you say.   The Christians of North America formed the core of the Abolitionist movement and if their Southern compatriots did otherwise, it's as Lincoln said in his Second Inaugural.


"One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding.


Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him?


Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."


Some Christians stood up to slavery, many others did not.

mmghosh's picture

Duelling quotes!

6 Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed.

2 And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort.

Of course I concede that Lincoln and co were great people.  My point was really only that not all times and peoples have regarded slavery as an evil.  Some did, granted, and their numbers have increased over time which is well and good.


Lincoln was also assassinated for his pains.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

15 years into a war, an enemy colony


refusing to submit. I think it was about this time that the Athenians realised that this was existential. It is no wonder that the Athenians anhilated te Melians. I file that under The Horrors of War. The Lacedemonians did something very similar at Palataea. 


Or the Spartans, asking for volunteers from amongst their Helot slaves to fight against Athens and win their freedom and then, rather than enlisting these people, having them all quietly murdered - the thought being that any Helot who might volunteer to fight was a brave Helot who might revolt against a weakened Sparta.


A practical lot, those Greeks.


Plato was an unpleasant person, that comes across very clearly. 


All of which is more to glory in the window that Thucydides gives us than to try to disagree with your point about Cant. It was cant. I think a lot of anti slavery talk is cant too, since it ignores poverty which can be exactly equivalent to slavery.

Why I think there's a First Amendment, by Jordan


I think there's a First Amendment because Congress has to be protected against itself. Some people think the First Amendment grants rights to citizens, but those people are wrong and I will explain why. The Founding Fathers believed that citizens already have rights to free speech and to print whatever they want, and to freedom of conscience in religion, to decide who to hang out with and peaceably assemble, and to petition the government to complain about stuff and demand the government fix it. In the Declaration of Independence, they say that they believe governments can't just give these rights to people, because they're inallen... unalien... alienabatabl... because people automatically have those rights. Governments can only take them away. 


The Founding Fathers wrote the Bill of Rights not to give rights to people, but to stop Congress from taking rights away from people. But they did this not to protect the rights of the people, but to protect Congress. You see, if Congress is ordered to form a more perfect union and promote the general welfare, then they have an obligation to use all of the powers they are given, every last one. Otherwise, people will say they aren't doing their job. If Congress had the power to regulate speech, then they would also have an obligation to regulate speech, because it's their job to use all of their powers to promote the general welfare. 


This is where the problem is. Because elections depend on free speech in order to reflect the will of the people, then if Congress can take away free speech, then they are directly interfering with the purpose of elections. Who knows what the will of the people is if Congress keeps messing around with what people are allowed to say? Congress would get locked into a spiral where it would regulate speech, which would undermine elections, which would make Congress more out of touch, which will make them regulate speech even more, a vicious circle. 


That is why Congress is not allowed to infrrrraaahh, to infffffrrrraaa, to mess with free speech. However, Congress is also given the power to make sure elections are free and fully accessible to all citizens, and that power is more important than the rule about not interfering with free speech (it even comes earlier in the Constitution!). If there's a case where free speech makes it so elections are less fair and less equal, then that kind of speech has to get regulated.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

"It even comes earlier in the Constitution!"


Come on man.  You've got it precisely backwards.  Under your theory we can't amend the constitution.


The 3/5 clause is earlier than "equal protection of the law".   The clause enacting prohibition is earlier than the one revoking prohibition.  Claiming that earlier provisions trump later ones....well,  just think about it.


"However, Congress is also given the power to make sure elections are free and fully accessible to all citizens....If there's a case where free speech makes it so elections are less fair and less equal, then that kind of speech has to get regulated."


 I'll have to politely request an Article and Section citation for that one. It's a nice sentiment and I feel so hard-hearted denying it, but the Firefox search function is having trouble finding those specific words in the text of the constitution.  In fact, the word "fair" doesn't appear at all,  as far as I can tell.

Well, gee, I could cite McCutcheon v. FEC (2014)


The Supreme Court in April 2014 affirmed two principles. Firstly, it upheld longstanding precedent saying that political campaign contributions count as protected free speech under the 1st Amendment. Secondly, it affirmed that Congress has the right to limit campaign contributions, and therefore limit 1st Amendment protections in cases where those contributions impair the integrity of elections: 

The right to participate in democracy through political contributions is protected by the First Amendment, but that right is not absolute. Congress may regulate campaign contributions to protect against corruption or the appearance of corruption. 

So Congress can infringe on a protected right of free speech, in order to protect antecedent constitutional rights (free & fair elections, equal representation, etc.). 

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

That's the crux

Bird Dog's picture

They couldn't support the corruption threshhold at those levels. They upheld the per candidate limits at $5,200 per election cycle.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

In other words, they made a judgment call, not a


constitutional call. "Corruption threshold." Is that seriously the kind of test you think courts should be imposing on the legislature? 

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Well, yeah,

Bird Dog's picture

they're judges. And they judged to widen free speech, so I call it good.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

They judged that Congress isn't fit to decide


what does or does not cause "corruption" in the electoral process. I don't find their judgment very sound at all.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Not quite

Bird Dog's picture

They judged that Congress crossed the line on abridging a right, based on Congress' own faulty reasoning. Ironic that liberal justices now are ruling against widening of this right. Taranto nails it.

And here's how Breyer sums it all up: "Accordingly, the First Amendment advances not only the individual's right to engage in political speech, but also the public's interest in preserving a democratic order in which collective speech matters."

The emphasis on "matters" is again Breyer's. We'd have italicized "collective" as the key concept. As with the Second Amendment, he and the other dissenters assert a "collective" right, the establishment of which is purportedly the Constitution's ultimate purpose, as a justification for curtailing an individual right.

In this case they at least acknowledge the individual right exists. But then the First Amendment, unlike the Second, has no prefatory clause explaining its purpose; it simply says "Congress shall make no law . . ." Breyer has to venture outside the text to find a reason to read that prohibition equivocally.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

Taranto blows it.


The key concept of Breyer's dissent has nothing to do with "collective" democracy at all: he believes that unlimited campaign finance itself infringes not only freedom of speech, but also the integrity of elections. In other words, enormous donors are able to both a) dominate the press and public discourse to the exclusion of ordinary voters (or even collectives of many voters) and b) disenfranchise ordinary voters by reducing their access to and influence over their elected representatives. Here is the real core of Breyer's dissent:

The upshot is that the interests the Court has long described as preventing "corruption" or the "appearance of corruption" are more than ordinary factors to be weighed against the constitutional right to political speech. Rather, they are interests rooted in the First Amendment itself. They are rooted in the constitutional effort to create a democracy responsive to the people-a government where laws reflect the very thoughts, views, ideas, and sentiments, the expression of which the First Amendment protects. Given that end, we can and should understand campaign finance laws as resting upon a broader and more significant constitutional rationale than the plurality's limited definition of "corruption" suggests. We should see these laws as seeking in significant part to strengthen, rather than weaken, the First Amendment. To say this is not to deny the potential for conflict between (1) the need to permit contributions that pay for the diffusion of ideas, and (2) the need to limit payments in order to help maintain the integrity of the electoral process. But that conflict takes place within, not outside, the First Amendment 's boundaries. 

I believe anyone who has taken (and passed) a high school physics course can grasp this logic. It has nothing to do with protecting an imaginary collective "will of the masses"; Breyer is saying that excessive campaign contributions infringe both the exercise of free speech and the integrity of elections & representation for the vast majority of individual voters


There's also the simple cold fact that single donors can write single checks for $3.6 million, hand them to the House and Senate leadership, and walk away with zero influence over how and when those monies get distributed to candidates throughout the country. They can do the same 50 more times at the state level. If handing a single candidate a $6000 check even according to the Roberts plurality regardless of what that candidate does with said money, then how does handing a single party leader 3 orders of magnitude larger than that to spend as they see fit not 3 orders of magnitude more corrupting? 


The Roberts court's logic is, as so many times before, hopelessly flawed.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Then Breyer should have sided with the majority

Bird Dog's picture

Because the issue wasn't about "unlimited campaign finance". The per-person and per-group limits were kept in place, so the legs of his "corruption" argument were knocked out from under him.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

"Per group" is not a finite quantity.


Nor for that matter is "per person." Republicans can just primary a dozen people per district, register a few more campaign committees and before you can say boomshakalaka you have people writing $10 million checks and handing them to Mitch McConnell to spend how he sees fit.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

This is just icing on the Citizens United case.


Saying a fixed limit to any one candidate is less-arbitrary than a finite number of candidates is patently absurd.  Roberts is an ass. 

"Collective" Right Trumping The Individual One

M Scott Eiland's picture

Ayn Rand has been dead and buried for thirty-two years, and she still has an ear for how the looters of wealth and rights speak and think. No wonder she drives them into foaming rages.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Looters are what looters do.


Ayn Rand took the sacrament of Gummint Cheese. 

Certain kinds


of people are MORE deserving of  welfare than others. Her sin is overlooked, like St. Ron's amnesty, tax raising and exploding of the national debt.


Those OTHER people though...

A corpse can experience pearl-clutching plebophobia?


And based on a single trigger-word, too. No wonder the cult of St. Rand is so strong.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

You didn't really respond to Jordan's post


He pointed out there's precedent for carving out a political corruption exception to the 1st amend.


So then the question is why SCOTUS is inserting itself and redrawing these lines for legislatures as to what is likely to lead to corruption. There's no originalist basis for redrawing the legislature's lines in this way, as there's no texts on aggregate vs. specific limits.


The only viable originalist argument would overturn all restrictions on political spending according to a very broad reading of the 1st amen., which only Thomas appears prepared to do. (Though of course his 1st amend absolutism isn't so broad as to allow something like flag burning.) 


For the other justices, this looks like judicial activism by conservatives who fancy themselves more expert on the dangers of political corruption than politicians themselves. 

Back to basics here


I don't buy the deference stuff.  The purpose of the 1st Amendment is to limit Congress.  The purpose of judicial review is cut back Congress when they try to violate those limits, especially when the "justifications" are facially outrageous and obviously insincere.  Let me try to sum it up succinctly:


1.  Congress has declared that some categories of speech have reduced protections because of a political corruption exception.   What category?  Among other things,   criticizing Congressmen near the time of an election.  Mentioning a candidate is what triggers the exception.   Doesn't this strike you as just a tiny bit self-serving?  


2.  Congress purports to be worried about people buying influence,  but Congress is curiously quiet about who is selling the influence.   There are only buyers when there are sellers.  At least some of the people voting for this "anti-corruption measure"  are themselves influence vendors.


3.  Since (1) Congress has a strong, obvious, and corrupt motive to find suppress public criticism,  and (2) are themselves an equal party to whatever corruption is going on,  it follows that in this case they deserve the lowest level of deference,  much lower than they would in the context of other 1st Amendment line drawing. 


4.  Even when operating under an exception,  Congress is required to narrowly tailor remedies to the problem.  If the problem is bribery they need to find solutions that address bribery without chilling large amounts of speech that is not bribery.   Placing regulations on all criticism of Congressmen because some fraction of it might be part of a bribe is the opposite of narrow





For the other justices, this looks like judicial activism by conservatives who fancy themselves more expert on the dangers of political corruption than politicians themselves.

And rightly so.  We give very little deference to the "expertise" of rapists when making the laws on sexual assault,  we should give similar levels of deference to the "expertise" of Congressmen on how to control bribery of Congressmen.

Some comments on your basics


OK, you don't buy the deference stuff but most conservative justices go on and on about it, especially Scalia, so one is allowed to pt. out inconsistencies.


Ditto for Thomas who has decided that contributions to politicians is constitutionally protected speech, but not flag burning.


1. "Mentioning a candidate is what triggers the exception." -- an anti-political corruption rule was at issue, so it's hardly surprising that it's candidate-oriented. 


2. "At least some of the people voting for this "anti-corruption measure"  are themselves influence vendors." OK, but one might reasonably believe they're shamed into it by other politicians, or that politicians judged it necessary to win votes to enact sensible anti-corruption statutes.


3. "they deserve the lowest level of deference" -- again that's just you speaking, not the conservative justices on SCOTUS. Also, if corruption is such a corrosive influence on Congress's actions, that cuts both ways, i.e. it might just as well favor greater restrictions on campaign financing.


4. "If the problem is bribery they need to find solutions that address bribery without chilling large amounts of speech that is not bribery." -- you're again assuming that only straight bribery is allowed to count as corruption, whereas much more subtle and unstated forms of influence are also likely to occur and Congress has an interest to curb even the appearance of corruption. As an engineer, that's in your professional code of ethics for a reason as well -- the perception harms the entire profession and in this case it's reasonably determined to harm democratic institutions and representative government itself.


There's really no reason a corruption exception should be restricted to straight bribery.


I think it's again telling that the ACLU, which was very gung-ho on Citizens United and is generally pretty absolutist on the 1st amend, was not involved in this case. 


It's SCOTUS micro-managing an exception to the 1st amend it's already recognized and one that falls well within reasonable boundaries. It's as if the conservatives were getting involved in setting precise decibel levels of local noise ordinances, ordinances which hardly seem unreasonable on their face, and when adjusted just happen to benefit conservatives.


It's not a terribly important case, I just think it's one where outcomes as opposed to rational legal reasoning look like a plausible explanation for the ruling. Certainly you're exaggerating any allegedly obvious 1st amend grounds.

The Constitution gives Congress, not SCOTUS, the power to


regulate elections. You're basically inventing a new power of judicial review here, where the court gets to rewrite major articles of the Constitution if it seems to them that the framers were wrong to give Congress that job after all.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes


M Scott Eiland's picture

I hold eeyn in high regard, but unless he's hiding a seriously awesome backstory along with a trenchcoat and a katana, he's not John Marshall.*

*--and eeyn, if you *are* John Marshall, shame on you for running out on that rather important job at a bad moment and sticking us with Roger bleeping Taney as CJ for twenty eight years, dude.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Marshall "running out on the job"?

Jay C's picture

Dude: he died - at the age of 79, back in a day when the average lifespan was, what? 50? Yeah, he would have been a better CJSCOTUS for another 28 years than Roger Taney, but really? Do you really think his judgments would have been all that great at the age of 108?*


*Compared to Taney, yes: but let's be real....


M Scott Eiland's picture

Did you miss the part where I was making a Highlander joke?

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Ok, I guess I did, but "Highlander"

Jay C's picture

featured Roger bleeping Daltrey: who was someone else altogether....

(and not, AFAICR, on the Supreme Court. More's the pity....)

Wait, Marbury v. Madison gave SCOTUS the right


to take Article 2 powers away from Congress? Man, I'm learning so much about constitutional law today.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Everything Congress Or The President Does. . .

M Scott Eiland's picture

. . .at least handwaves at a provision of the Constitution. The Supreme Court isn't obliged to buy the argument--assuming they don't just pull an emanation out of their penumbra and make up something on the spot (cough cough "right to privacy" cough cough) to justify nullifying an offending law.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Multiple problems here


The First Amendment came after Article I,  and to the extent they are in conflict,   later provisions supersede earlier ones.   That's why we no longer have 3/5 persons or national prohibition of alcohol.  


Judicial review has been around since Marbury vs Madison.  It seems to me you're the one inventing a new "elections and corruption" exception to judicial review.


Perhaps it would have been less troublesome if the First had said something like '"Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech,  unless Congress' election power, or commerce power (which includes all human action or inaction) is invoked as a pretext." 


But of course that's not what it said.  The election power, like the commerce power, was curtailed by later amendments.   There is no "election exception" that says people accused of election crimes don't get jury trials,  there is no "election exception" that says searches related to election fraud do not require a warrant,  and there is no "election"  exception that says speech related to an election does not get First Amendment protections.


And yet the courts have ruled in favor of infringing


free speech in favor of protecting the integrity of elections on several occasions. How do you explain that, if later provisions simply supersede earlier ones in cases of conflict?

Perhaps it would have been less troublesome if the First had said something like '"Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech,  unless Congress' election power, or commerce power (which includes all human action or inaction) is invoked as a pretext."

But it isn't necessary to spell things out that way. It's a short document, and if an amendment doesn't outright nullify an earlier section, both sections are presumed to be in force (until they come into conflict). 

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes


Bird Dog's picture


"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

No solicitation or accepting of gifts


is the normal rule.  Saw one of the professors in my Dad's department run afoul of this rule over a Christmas present from a student.  It's still a gift / bribe / quid-pro-quo regardless of the use of a cutout or not.

Yes, exactly


and note that the rule applies entirely,  and only,  to the professor. 


Consider the particular part of the BCRA that the SC was looking at today,  and ask yourself - why are all the punishments under discussion on the donor,  and not on the politician?

The case revolves around the word Corruption.


US v Brewster makes a specific exception for campaign contributions

Which is why the government lost


They picked a bad case to take to the top.  The key words are right up front in the decision:

Congress may regulate contributions to protect against corruption or the appearance of corruption...It may not, however, regulate contributions simply to reduce the amount of money in politics, or to restrict the political participation of some in order to enhance the relative influence of others.

The DoJ should have picked on a guy that was funnelling cash to one politician through multiple committees.  It's not like such a case would be hard to find.


Instead, they picked on someone who was making small (i.e. legal) contributions to many different candidates.  The fact that he was spreading his money over many candidates would tend to indicate he was most likely doing blanket support of all candidates that shared his general ideology,  rather than trying to extract a specific personal favor from a specific candidate.  


McCain and Feingold, and their supporters, also have themselves to blame.  They kept saying the purpose was to get the money out of politics, and to make spending more fair.  But these are precisely the justifications the SC had already said are not permissible.  


Perhaps if McCain had instead stood up and said:


"My fellow Americans, I and my colleagues are taking bribes.  We can be bought for $2600, and we will permit any one of you, the public to buy up to 18 of us.  Up to 18 is OK.  However, buying 19 of us is too many, and we will punish anyone who exceeds that limit.  The Congressmen are OK and will not be punished,  because each are only taking one bribe,  but you are evil, because you did 19 bribes."   


then maybe the SC would agree with his reasoning.


The decision reaches *way* further than that.


Roberts et al. basically just redefined corruption to its narrowest possible definition. 

The plurality’s first claim—that large aggregate contributions do not “give rise” to “corruption”—is plausible only because the plurality defines “corruption” too narrowly. The plurality describes the constitutionally permissible objective of campaign finance regulation as follows: “Congress may target only a specific type of corruption—‘quid  pro quo’ corruption.” It then defines quid pro corruption to mean no more than “a direct exchange of an official act for money”—an act akin to bribery. It adds specifically that corruption does not include efforts to “garner ‘influence over or access to’ elected officials or political parties.” 

And there you have it. As far as this court is concerned, unless you literally hand a bag of money to a Congressperson in direct exchange for an official act, Congress has no power to regulate or limit the amount you can spend on that Congressperson's behalf. They can imagine no compelling state interest in preventing an individual with personal wealth equivalent to Iran's GDP from exerting titanic amounts of undue influence on the democratic process. 

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

So according to the dissent


it's really about this

in preventing an individual with personal wealth equivalent to Iran's GDP from exerting titanic amounts of undue influence on the democratic process.

as you've paraphrased it.  It's not really about bribery - specific officials taking official actions in order to get some of that personal wealth for themselves - it's that rich people can spend money to win too many elections. 


The problem is, the BoR guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of the press. It does not guarantee wealth equality, or for that matter equality of speech.  

The Constitution guarantees free, unencumbered elections.


Congress has an obligation to act to make sure elections are in fact unencumbered by influences that might, for example, disenfranchise entire classes of voters, or even create the appearance that entire classes of voters might be disenfranchised. Congress also has an obligation to make sure that citizens aren't completely crowded out of the public media.  


Your problem here is that you're looking at just one aspect of the Constitution in isolation (the BoR). So, for that matter, is the Roberts court. In fact there are multiple Constitutional principles at play in campaign finance, and they are in conflict. 

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

I can see the logic in your argument about SuperPAC money


but knowing a bit more than I care to admit about donors, both on the giving and the receiving end of things, donors like something called Directed Giving.  This means they can drive their donation dollar exactly where they want it to go.  So some charity is running a Save the Stripey Weasel campaign.  The donor can say, "I want you to only spend money on Stripey Weasels and not a dime on yourselves." through a directed gift  This leads to some surprising results:  though millions of dollars might be flowing into a charity, the office people don't have money for Post-It notes.  It's hell, raising money for General Expenditures.


The Tea Partiers are all about individual candidates and so are their donors.  Though donors can give to SuperPACs to run ads against people, it was harder to get money /for/ a candidate before this decision.  So I get a lot of ads about Mary Burke is Bad for Wisconsin.  That's SuperPAC money.   Scott Walker would really like this sort of thing to continue, since it isn't attacking Republicans.  But now, the Tea Partiers can all run ads /for/ their own candidates, which isn't good for the GOP and especially not Scott Walker. 

Florida's Rick Scott receives own ass, gift wrapped


After his skeevy voter roll purge in 2012, such a nasty bit of work even his own GOP commissioners refused to carry it out


Surely when Congress wrote that the 90 Day Provision applied to “any program,” it intended for the provision to apply to more than just programs aimed at voters who have moved. If Congress wanted such a limited result, it could have said so. See CBS Inc. v. PrimeTime 24 Joint Venture, 245 F.3d 1217, 1226 (11th Cir. 2001) (“[W]here Congress knows how to say something but chooses not to, its silence is controlling.” (quotation marks omitted)). As a result, we cannot accept Secretary Detzner’s interpretation. In closing, we emphasize that our interpretation of the 90 Day Provision does not in any way handcuff a state from using its resources to ensure that non- citizens are not listed in the voter rolls. The 90 Day Provision by its terms only applies to programs which “systematically” remove the names of ineligible voters. As a result, the 90 Day Provision would not bar a state from investigating potential non-citizens and removing them on the basis of individualized information, even within the 90-day window. All that the 90 Day Provision prohibits is a program whose purpose is to “systematically remove the names of ineligible voters” from the voter rolls within the last 90 days before a federal election. 42 U.S.C. § 1973gg-6(c)(2)(A).

For these reasons, we reverse the District Court’s grant of judgment as a matter of law to Secretary Detzner and remand with instructions to enter an order (1) declaring that Secretary Detzner’s actions here were in violation of the 90 Day Provision of the NVRA; and (2) granting such further relief as the needs and interests of justice require.



Can I get a chorus of the Voter Fraud Song from the faithful?  Anyone? 


"Who the hell votes for a guy like Rick Scott?"


"Forget it, Pranky, it's Florida."

Bluehairs, dry rot, Baptists and pythons


Dave Barry on Florida:


"I moved here in 1986 from the United States, and I have come to really love it here. And it's a great place to be a humor writer. Carl Hiaasen ... his quote is, 'You really don't need an imagination to write fiction about South Florida, you just need a subscription to The Miami Herald.'

The best Putin jokes in one place.

mmghosh's picture



I especially liked

"Despite the fact that the Ukraine has been all over the news for the past few weeks, a survey found that 64 percent of U.S. students still couldn't find Ukraine on a map. Said Vladimir Putin, 'Soon nobody will.'" –Seth Meyers


"The peacemaker is Vladimir Putin. He is going to help us secure the chemical weapons, because if there is one thing you can trust Putin with, it’s poison. " –Bill Maher on the Syria crisis


"Putin said that when Americans claim to be exceptional it offends other countries. This from a man who arrests his political opponents, persecutes people based on sexual orientation, and put a girl band in a labor camp for singing songs he didn't like. We don't think we are better than everyone else. We just think we are better than him, specifically." –Jimmy Kimmel


"NSA leaker Edward Snowden has filed for asylum in Russia, but Vladimir Putin is against it. You know, if Snowden really wants to stay in Russia he should just speak out against Putin. He'll get to stay in Russia the rest of his life." –Jay Leno


"Evidently, voters really responded to his campaign slogan: 'Putin 2012 -- Or He'll Shoot Your Family.'" –Stephen Colbert

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency


M Scott Eiland's picture

From Grantland.com, a son tells the story of taking his father--a bitter Brooklyn Dodgers fan who hadn't seen or heard a Dodger game since 1958--to Dodger Stadium with his own son, only to leave early after the little tyke got tired and turning on the radio to listen to the rest of the game on the way home:

My kid lasted four innings. He’s 6 now, and was 5 at the time. A respectable showing. When we walked out, threading our way past palm trees and posters from the ’50s, I asked my son if he wanted to listen to the game on the way home. He said sure. I turned on the radio as we drove toward Sunset and out of the orbit of the stadium, Vin Scully’s voice guiding us along.

Suddenly my father started. The blood drained from his face.

“Is that … ?”




“My God. I haven’t heard that voice since the ’50s.”

He let out a long, low whistle and burst into a crazy smile as I guided the car home.


. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

The Japanese, in their wisdom,

Jay C's picture

have formalized the process of designating particular individuals who are noted as having excelled in their craft (said craft usually being defined as some specifically notable part of the national cultural patrimony) as "Living National Treasures" - a sort of ambulatory Statue Of Liberty/Mount Rushmore: but with the added fillip of their being around to appreciate the honor. Few Americans, IMO, would qualify, but one who would definitely make the cut is Mr. Vincent Edward Scully...


After all, how cool is it that Brooklyn Dodger fans of the 1950's and L.A. Dodger fans of the 2010's can share the experience of having the games they follow so avidly being called by the same guy?

Great story


and a pleasant good evening to you, wherever you may be....

Money for Nothing.

mmghosh's picture


freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

Yes, I've Read this Repeatedly, Thanks for the Head's Up...


In a capitalist market, governed by the invisible hand of supply and demand, sellers are constantly searching for new technologies to increase productivity, allowing them to reduce the costs of producing their goods and services so they can sell them cheaper than their competitors, win over consumers and secure sufficient profit for their investors. Marx never asked what might happen if intense global competition some time in the future forced entrepreneurs to introduce ever more efficient technologies, accelerating productivity to the point where the marginal cost of production approached zero, making goods and services "priceless" and potentially free, putting an end to profit and rendering the market exchange economy obsolete. But that's now beginning to happen.

Over the past decade millions of consumers have become prosumers, producing and sharing music, videos, news, and knowledge at near-zero marginal cost and nearly for free, shrinking revenues in the music, newspaper and book-publishing industries.




They began by acknowledging that "the most basic condition for economic efficiency: [is] that price equal marginal cost", and further conceded that "with information goods the social marginal cost of distribution is close to zero". They then went to the crux of the problem. "If information goods are to be distributed at their marginal cost of production – zero – they cannot be created and produced by entrepreneurial firms that use revenues obtained from sales to consumers to cover their [fixed set-up] costs … [companies] must be able to anticipate selling their products at a profit to someone."


Fascinating stuff...I am not sure we are there yet, or ever will even ever approach a zero margin economy...but this is something to think about. The utter ongoing transformation of the book and music business may be instructive...but we don't yet know where it will finally abide.


To each according to their need, from each according to their ability...(Indeed!)



Marx not only asked, but answered the question of costs


approaching zero.  Such people need to read Marx, I swear, the ignorance surrounding Karl Marx and Capital just floors me sometimes.

7.08 million.


That's estimated ACA signups, according to Charles Gaba. (Le graph.) This means that Obamacare probably narrowly beat the original CBO projection of 7 million, which raises an important question for conservatives:  


Do you ever get tired of being wrong all the time?

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Yeah, but who could've guessed that Obamacare enrollments


would nearly triple in the last four days (according to this very honest graph)???

Fun with graphs

Jay C's picture

It's actually pretty accurate if one realizes that each horizontal bar represents 200,000 signups: however, the way it's presented skews the scale fairly oddly: the difference between 6,000,000 and 7,066,000 is about 15%: but Fox's chart is obviously trying to accentuate the shortfall. As usual with that network, though, their attempts at "fair and balanced" fall short: the actual number signed up IS a major jump at the last days. Though I'm not sure they'll point that particular fact out: they'll more likely go back to trying to scare the rubes with "death panels" or whatever...

"its actually pretty accurate if ... each bar represents 200k"


No, in that case right hand bar should read over 1.6 million, not 706,600.

This is amateur hr at fox. If youre going make a misleading bar graph you dont put any horizontal stripes in at all.

Somebodys really falling down on the job at fox of teaching its employees to lie

Newsflash: Fox News learns to use spreadsheet graphs.



Fox News issued an on-air correction to a misleading chart displayed Monday on "America's Newsroom." The chart incorrectly scaled the number of projected enrollees in health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act to the Obama administration's original goal. "That was our mistake," Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer said Tuesday. "Correction noted."

So we learn some ore about "enhanced interrogation"


Techniques included "smashing a subject's head against the wall". The quality of information was greatly exagerated. Torture continued even after agents were convinced they had extracted all usefull information.




There's more out there. This just covers the black sites. We still haven't had a full accounting of the torture in Iraq at the start of the occupation including, it was rumoured, the sexual torture of the young children of senior regime figures.


Will we ever see anyone prosecuted?



America's entire response to 9/11 —Gitmo, Iraq, etc.— is like a ruptured oil pipeline, pumping a thick, sticky coating of shame all across the country.

You need to look forward, not backward. -nt



Nobody will ever be prosecuted.


It's truly shameful.  I thought I'd had a gut full of the torture issue back when all this was first coming out,  Have you ever been in a serious accident, had to deal with the fallout immediately, that dull sensation of no-yesterday and no-tomorrow, simply must cope, I'll go to pieces later - sort of feeling?  Not really shock, that's not what you'd call it.  Something else though.  A nameless sort of anomie.  That's how I feel about all this torture coming to light and the pushback from the executive and the intelligence community. 


What went wrong with my country?  Camus talks about it a bit, France's connivance with the Third Reich, the necessity of executing the traitors.  Those worthy of death, he observed, had too much blood on their hands, too much torture and murder, to ever be forgiven or tolerated.   I'm not going to go that far, though perhaps Camus' arguments have more weight than I'm willing to give them.  I've just turned my face away from it all, shame-faced and silent.  My country did these things.  And nobody will ever bring the people who tortured and murdered these people to justice.

Glad To Know That You Care About People


Even if it is only when you think they are worth caring about.


When I do, you say: And do lay off this maundering, tear-stained eulogy for the dead of Iraq.


So, let's try the following: And do lay off this maundering, tear-stained eulogy for the tortured and murdered of Iraq (and elsewhere). How does it sound?



This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

How did Elvis Costello put it?


Oh I used to be disgusted
and now I try to be amused


Do you know the word Apocalypse.  Apo - kaluptein.  Literally, to take the lid off a pot, or to lift the cover from off something.  The disgusting part of the Iraq War amounts to the USA taking the lid off the disgusting Science Project left in Saddam's refrigerator, the rotten, festering Sunni-Shiite war which had been ongoing since Islam was first invented.  The war which divided those ignorant f*cks happened in Iraq.  That's why Karbala and Najaf are sacred to the Shiites. 


But the USA was so clever, oh yeah, we're going to put down Saddam Hussein, all-round Bad Guy.  You betcha.  There's a coal mine fire in Centralia, PA which has been burning since 1962.  They can't put it out.  Every so often it erupts, devours a tree from the roots up.  That's the situation we uncovered in Iraq, in our stupidity.  Only that fire has been ongoing since January 27, 661 AD, in Kufa, Iraq, when Ali was murdered.  Do not ask me to feel sorry for these people.  They're perfectly happy to pick up this war where they left off during the interval of Saddam Hussein's rule and they will go on murdering each other and making martyrs until the sun burns down to a cinder.  And do not make me laugh about /captious. 

Yada Yada


Yeah, I get the point that they kill each other.


Nonetheless, by the most conservative statistics we killed no less than 150,000 civilians, plus who knows how many military. How many people were tortured to death by the CIA? I'd be surprised if 1% of that. Which doesn't make it right or anything, but in terms of magnitude of suffering caused, the sheer scale of it, it's a bit hard to ignore one and hold concern for the other.


Not to mention, I could argue, and will, that people around the world have been torturing and murdering since the stone age. There. Now you can feel fine about American torture. It's all good, they do it to each other anyway! That seems to be your logic.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

Kill counts vary widely. I'd like to see yours.


I'm not calling yours into question, mind you.  But in the overall scheme of things, the USA's great blunder was to get involved in someone else's civil war, without understanding what was happening.  Americans learn geography (and sociology) from the war reporting.  Said that before, too.  Stalin is supposed to have said one death is a tragedy and a million are a statistic but really, I have no patience for all this whining about the people the American military shot in Fallujah or Ramadi or in Sadr City.  You shoot at Americans, you shoot from inside a crowd of civilians, you will be sorry and so will those civilians. 


Really, all this talk of Scale and Magnitude of Suffering goes nowhere with me, not when we're talking about Iraq.  I've cried my last tear over the dead, even my own dead.  The Shiites have burned Baghdad to the ground four times, five if you count what they did after we got there.  The Sunnis are no better.  Well, the USA learned all this the hard way.   We waded into that sh*thole and got as nasty as they already were.  That's what comes of Good Intentions and all our Half-o'-this and None-o'-that wishful thinking about Exportin' Democracy to Iraq.  All those blast walls we had to put up to keep those feuding religious maniacs apart, the checkpoints, all those nervous pimply-faced American kids out there, didn't even realise the arm-out flat-hand gesture to "Stop" means "Approach" in an Arabic context.  Shooting up all those carloads of families, that's the stuff of nightmares.  That disturbs me, that we sent hundreds of thousands of American troops into that situation not knowing a word of Arabic or the first thing about those people.


At some point, Iraqis must take responsibility for what they've done to each other.  If the CIA was torturing people at Abu Ghraib, Saddam's mukhabarat was doing the same thing at the same location, on a far grander scale.   At the very worst, all we did was reset that situation to SNAFU.  And I do mean Situation Normal, as it had been since before the Normans invaded Britain. 

+1. It runs deeper than Kufa 661 AD IMO.

mmghosh's picture

There are certain points on the map, certain faultlines where grievances are nursed over centuries with a peculiarly special ferocity - the current conflict may assume a superficial aspect of modernity.  I don't think it is a doctrinal issue.  Over here for example, Shias and Sunnis have lived with each other for many generations.


Another region is around the Khyber Pass. And there are others, where conventional enmity and war assume existential issues. 


The ROW approaches these areas, or funds one side vs the other at its own risk.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

I'm not quite ready to blame America


This was run by a few hundred psychopaths. 


The lack of pushback from the general populace is hard to take though. Carter looks more and more like a hero these days.

It's Always A Few Hundred Psycopaths


Or a few thousand.


I think, more and more over time, that the quality of a society is a function of its ability to rein in its psychopathic 1%. This is easier said than done, as these people often end up in prison, but also in positions of power:

Psychologists Fritzon and Board, in their study comparing the incidence of personality disorders in business executives against criminals detained in a mental hospital, found that the profiles of senior business managers contained some significant elements of personality disorders, particularly those referred to as the "emotional components" of psychopathy.

Which, really, explains a lot.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

Psychopathy is basically a BS diagnosis.


There's a reason DSM IV doesn't include it: practitioners can't agree on more than a basic set of symptoms. Think about it: if "narcissism, lack of affect, willful manipulation of others, callous disregard for feelings, etc." are symptoms of a genuine psychological disorder, then every child under the age of 10 or so is a psychopath/sociopath. 


Robert Hare, the doctor who developed the PCL-R checklist used by police agencies and courts around the world, has written several books and articles about supposed "psychopaths" in business suits. The truth is far more prosaic than the idea that powerful individuals are barely human monsters in disguise: the callous, manipulative behavior of many senior executives is completely ordinary, self-involved human behavior. Always has been. 


People who can practice selective empathy, or switch their conscience and feelings on and off at will, are not properly called psychopaths. I believe that there are people whose empathy system is permanently broken, and those people generally fall into the DSM-IV's Antisocial Personality Disorder, which focuses on behaviors and consequences rather than motives or personality styles. It's hard to imagine any successful professional in any field showing a pervasive pattern of 3 or more of those criteria.


The thesis of Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem, the findings of the famous Milgram torture experiments both point to one thing: most of the time, people who do horrific things are simply normal, healthy, banal human beings. We're all capable of horrors; and there's nothing particularly monstrous or special about those of us who do.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Love To Agree With You


But after a couple of decades of work experience, I don't.


A lot of people are capable of this behavior under the right conditions. But a small subset is consistently pursuing them. I've seen people like this. You can believe what you want. I'll grant that the Hare tests are primitive, but that's a function of the state of the field. They exist, and they have outsize influence when they can be found.


Not only that, from an evolutionary perspective you would expect deceitful, predatory behavior in a small percentage of the population. It's an advantage to be able to blind side people consistently, so long as it is a relatively rare trait.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

Most of human history is dominated by people


who made a habit of pursuing deceitful, predatory behavior. Prisoner's dilemma accounts for this perfectly well without needing to postulate a supposed psychological condition whose etiology & diagnosis researchers have been completely unable to pin down despite well over a century of devotion to the project. 


It's really just "human nature." Our sense of ethics, empathy, remorse, etc. are almost entirely conditioned by context. In the right context, we can all become monsters, even habitual ones. 


That said, I think the DSM-IV definition of APD does apply to certain people, but those people tend to be obviously dysfunctional. You would not mistake them for a normal person after five minutes of conversation, and they are definitely not good candidates for positions of leadership & trust (they are basically incapable of trust in either direction). Even those people, many of them are able to turn empathy responses on or off at convenience or with the proper context.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Simply Do Not Agree


I believe considerable evidence has been found, and continues to be found, by Hare certainly even if his checklist is flawed, even in terms of brain structure, conditioning, and reaction to stimulus.


The brain is quite plastic but not entirely. There are such things as innate tendencies for any number of personality attributes. I'm a technology and computer geek and have been one as early as I can remember, though nobody in my family was an engineer or scientist who could have influenced me. I have two daughters, one like me, one not. The same home, parents, school, etc. The differences were clear very early, before primary school even.


I think that people who brush aside innate differences have deep-seated aversion to mechanistic notions of human behavior on philosophical or political grounds. I used to think this way when I was in my early twenties, but the empirical test of experience has taught me the opposite, and evidence from twin studies has largely corroborated this idea.


This has not turned me into a conservative. Even as I believe that all people are not created equal, I continue to believe that society has no business accentuating natural differences by being structured to facilitate power and wealth for those who already have it. On the contrary, it is in the interest of all that society mitigate these differences, for the sake of long term stability and to maximize overall quality of life. Put another way, we don't need to be all equal to have equal rights. This is true both in principle and practice, for who would be the arbiter of social worth, anyway?

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

You're now pretty far afield from my point about society


and  accepting torture as an unpunishable given.  While I'm inclined to agree with you on the nature versus nurture argument, it has no bearing on the issue at hand:  the ethical and legal underpinnings of torture and the norms of human behaviour.  These norms are not genetic.  Whether a twin is raised in the Pashtun culture, which enforces strict codes of conduct, both positive and negative, or in the USA, where such codes are seemingly non-existent, human society enforces different rules than the individual does upon himself.


The pathological lust for power is present in every culture.  It's not sociopathic to want power over others or through the exercise of power to escape the consequences of one's own bad behaviour.   It becomes pathological when the rule of law ends and despotism begins.  Wealth and power will always accrue to those who have it.  The only constraint we have upon that accrual is the rule of law.  We have laws against torture, especially binding upon our military.  The military didn't torture these prisoners.  At Abu Ghraib, some of the MPs abused some prisoners.  A few low-ranking offenders were exposed and punished: no highers-up were ever punished, especially not the CIA who were also working out of Abu Ghraib.  They got clean away.  But the waterboarding, the black sites, that would be the CIA and its cohorts.  They were able to get away with it because the sunshine of laws did not shine upon them.  If may well be, as you say, some people are predisposed to some profession.  It does not answer the question:  why, despite laws to prohibit torture and the ethical proscriptions upon it, did otherwise decent and law-abiding agents torture prisoners in US custody?   I don't have a clear answer but I can fall back upon the mechanical facts of the matter:  that people in positions of authority abused that power and were never punished.  And never will be.



It does not answer the question:  why, despite laws to prohibit torture and the ethical proscriptions upon it, did otherwise decent and law-abiding agents torture prisoners in US custody?


Indeed this is an interesting question. Again, science has uncovered some clues with the Milgram experiment and it's successors. As a social species that operates in hierarchical groups, we are predisposed to obey perceived authority.

Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority.

This, by the way, is one reason why high function psychopaths are disproportionately dangerous. They can leverage this characteristic of the species.


This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

That's all true about the agents of a destructive process.


And you're correct to note the Milgram experiments and the follow-on work on the willing, if somewhat grudging, participation of the order-takers.  But torture was always illegal, as well as unethical.  Both backstops failed.  Milgram may have dressed his Authority Figures in the uniforms of authority and he didn't really administer those lethal voltages to the "subjects".  This was different.


I contend the backstops failed in the mirror image of Milgram's shock machine.  Where Milgram kept his disconnected shock machine a secret from the subjects, the CIA disconnected the authority figures from the orders to engage an entirely real shock machine.  Note that the FBI and military would have nothing to do with torture.  They understood the ramifications: they had working accountability structures.  Their reports would see the light of day, their protocols were engineered to survive scrutiny of the legal process.  Their authority figures were connected to the orders.  UCMJ prohibits torture and punishes it, as it did with those nasty little MPs at Abu Ghraib.  FBI must bring its evidence to court. 


But the CIA got away with torture because it had no such accountability structures in place.  Their accountability revolves around keeping the secret, not around bringing people to justice or abiding by the laws of land warfare.  Judge, jury, torturer and executioner:  we do know people died as a result of what the CIA did to these people.   In point of fact, once some aspects (we will never get them all) of the torture became apparent, the brutality became a recruiting tool for the jihaadi movement.We must reverse-wire Milgram's experiments:  making the torturer the authority figure and the tortured as an already-guilty subject, entirely deserving of whatever befalls him. 


That's what disturbs me, that we became worse than our enemies.

Well put, Jordan.


The Prisoner's Dilemma comes into focus in the context of actual prisoners, who must live with the consequences of betrayal beyond the scope of some theoretical game. 


I'd like to amplify that good bit about "human nature".  I'd argue it's not innate, this business of reciprocity and empathy and remorse.  These are learned.  Evicting the Monster requires socialisation.  And he's never really evicted.  He's just waiting for his chance to re-enter the picture.  I dunno about being able to sort them out after five minutes of conversation, though I suppose an insightful person could make some intelligent guesses.  Some sociopaths evade detection, or more precisely, consequences for a lifetime. 

The parable of the Scorpion and the Frog


appears in many cultures.  I've theorised the sociopath is an artifact of a fragmented culture, where a predator can hide in plain sight.  In rural / nomadic cultures, the outsider is treated with simultaneous suspicion and courtesy.  Among the rural Hausa and the Tamashek, that courtesy is more a psychological exam:  how does this person react in the context of civilised people.  Does he exhibit enough humanity to return courtesy, gift for gift?  How do children react to him?   How do animals react to him?   The stranger can't be ignored.  He could be either extremely dangerous or an important source of information or trade goods.  You just don't know until you've got him within stabbing distance. 

Blame? Accountability is all I'm looking for from this.


We were taught not to torture, back in my day.  Torture was what the bad guys did.  Torture only made the victim confirm the suspicions of the torturer.  Torture only pumped bullsh*t into the intelligence pipelines.  There was pushback from the FBI, who said it wouldn't work.  That pushback amounted to nothing.  


And how were we, the American people, supposed to know about this at the time?  We sensed something was terribly wrong, many of us did have our suspicions when the terrible rumours began to circulate, of black sites everywhere.  No, no, we were reassured, America wouldn't do such things.  When details of the CIA interrogation videos were finally exposed, a special prosecutor concluded no crimes were committed.  US senators demanded details, nothing ever came of it.


And now, the CIA pushes back again.  These aren't the actions of a few hundred psychopaths.  It's government policy.  The reasoning is perfectly circular:  we can't expose the CIA's actions because there might be consequences for operators in the field - who act on the orders of the people who now tell us we can't expose the CIA's actions.  It's just wonderfully concise.

Great thread.

mmghosh's picture


freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

From the "More Buzz" link

brutusettu's picture

Every Open Thread Should Have Some Fine Photography


...since I did some nice work on Saturday for a Close Up Photo Challenge, the sheep with their sweater being so nice, I also offer for your pleasure:


Float Like a Bee







Red is the Color of my True Love's Heart




Walking on Yellow




And so many more wonders there were this Saturday past...lol


Best Wishes, Traveller



It's really interesting to look at bees close up.


I like the effects on the industrial shot. Dusty w/out looking too soft -- it gets the sooty grime and metallic feel simultaneously.

Paul Ryan's budget is coming!!


This time I'm sure we'll see a very serious effort to explain to the public how the GOP intends to responsibly and equitably tackle America's challenges.


Most of all, I hope that meanie Krugman learns to pay appropriate respect to our public servants, even if he notices a mistake or two.

Dean Baker is no Obama cheerleader


So I'm surprised by his optimistic take on Obamacare.


In this piece, he claims not just the usual benefits for the ACA of expanding insurance to the uninsured, but also that Obamacare will raise incomes and create jobs. 

Why Does Everyone Think That Any Health Coverage is Cheap?


...my Medicare, with drug coverage, My Medicare contribution and BlueCross/Anthem secondary coverage costs me $400.00 per month or close to $5,000.00 per year. 


People are shocked when I tell them what Medicare actually costs. Now it is true that mine is very good coverage and it is, but, since I have been helping some other people, young and old to sign up, that it all costs money...However, it irritates me that my painter got off a BullS**** policy for one  that costs a quarter of mine and actually covers him.


He is so thrilled that he is painting the downstairs of my house for free...he is that grateful. I don't know how he got this, but for some people the AFA seems to be working out well, (except that I hate him for his good fortune). {Really, I am a little resentful}.


So I am really pointing out that Medicare is not cheep and no one should expect, in the US, that coverage is not going to be a significant cost.


It is this untruthfulness as to cost that bothers me....there has been a dishonesty with the American People over health care costs however you get it. 



US health care is flimflam all the way to the core.


Costs are hidden and shifted at every level of the system, from paying premiums & taxes to claims to hospital budgets. It's a system designed by profit motive for profit motive, and therefore every participant in the system is looking to chisel every other participant in every transaction. It's taken decades of double-digit annual inflation for us to really get our hair on fire and even now the US public seems vaguely, cowishly aware that there's something wrong with that big red building we're all being herded into, but there's still no real will to do anything about the core of the problem. Which is that three entire industries have built a business model out of taking the money we set aside for health care and funneling it into their pockets in exchange for nuthin.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Problem is, health care isn't like repairing cars.


At some point, it isn't worth repairing a car, as everyone who's ever had an old jalopy will know.  Most health care expenditures in the USA are incurred in the last few weeks of life.  The aggressive and expensive interventions as people are dying dwarf every other consideration.  And Americans are too squeamish to have an honest debate about the issue. 


What we get is Sarah Palin and her maliciously ignorant comments about Death Panels.  Or the gruesome stupidity, some of it manifest around here, of all these Republican Chuckies maniacally laughing about Obamacare's shortcomings and failures.  There are Death Panels, folks.  They do exist.  I've sat in on three of them now.  Hospital conference room, people weeping, grim faced health care professionals, decent, caring people every one of them, discussing the increasing futility of intervention in a dying person's life. 


The USA is obssesed with youth, prudishly concerned about sexuality, morbidly fascinated with violence and insanely averse to death. Before we can get the health care situation straightened out, a more fundamental reset needs to happen in American culture.

Heh, good luck with that.


The cultural renaissance, I mean.

The USA is obssesed with youth, prudishly concerned about sexuality, morbidly fascinated with violence and insanely averse to death.

So very true. However I think we can fix health care finances short of staging a mass cultural awakening. In any case, we're going to have to. Maybe national bankruptcy is what it will take to get people to understand the insane contradictions we place on the health system.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Compared to what culture?


Korea is 5x more obsessed with youth and 10x more prudish about sexuality.

Koreans - prudes? What about Hyuna?

mmghosh's picture

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

Certain stuff is effectively not talked about even privately

brutusettu's picture

at least compared to the US.



Albeit even Las Vegas might not  have as many Hooker Card ads for "services" as Seoul does.  The ads are just tossed around in some places.  Prostitution is "illegal" in SK.  Totally "illegal".  


Also, barbershop polls in Korea, there might not be a barber there, probably some other service.



but the comparison is to the US, probably less Koreans will tell their friends of friends about the time.... yada yada yada. It's a funny story.

Oh good grief. Hallyu / K-pop is like plastic sushi


completely devoid of musical nutrition.  As a cultural phenomenon, hallyu is completely derivative and its "stars" purposely inauthentic.  Derrida once said to pretend, you actually have to do something but he was rather beyond that stage:  Derrida pretended to pretend.   Hallyu pretends to pretend.  Poor HyunA is as sexy as a store mannequin, by design

ehem, ehem

brutusettu's picture

That's an insult to hard working Scandinavian pop song writers and the other American or Korean K-Pop song writers and producers.

Next there will be insights of Korean labels having employees in training schools and that most but not nearly all of the vocalist have as much input into the songs as members of the Monkees?

Then something about musicals not having music because of the state show aspect?



Crayon Pop is coming to a city near you.  They're big in Korea.

Is it really an "insight", brut

Jay C's picture

to take notice of the fact that Korean "pop" culture (and even moreso, the Japanese version from which they got their business models)  is a manipulative, rigidly controlled and tightly-marketed Big Business? And one in which the performers (especially the cutesy/girly singers the machine runs on) are interchangeable/disposable cogs in an exploitative system by comparison to which The Monkees were four junior Mozarts? 


I have no claims to be an expert on contemporary Asian popular culture, but c'mon:

Ha. A perfect description of the Music Industry in general.

mmghosh's picture

Why pick on just kpop?

manipulative, rigidly controlled and tightly-marketed Big Business

Let's see what catchy has to say about this, immersed in Korean Sound as he is.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

Im with BlaiseP!


Kpop seems uniquely awful to me and I am constantly running away from the derivative soulless annoying garbanzo.

What do the Koreans think?

mmghosh's picture

There have been/are great Korean Western classical musicians.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

K-pop is massively popular in Korea


So they love it. It makes my ears bleed and want to blow my brains out when I accidentally come across it. 


There is great classical music all over Seoul. Plus at least one jazz club with talented Korean players. 


For popular stuff, break dancing is widespread and in my experience the music is more interesting than K-Pop, the dancing is high quality and individually expressive, and not like the monotonous routines of boy and girl K-pop bands.

So. . .

M Scott Eiland's picture

. . .basically they gender-swapped the US boy band industry?

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

There are a lot of boy bands

brutusettu's picture

For some odd reason, they don't seem to interest me much.


But the popular boy bands have more stalkers. A lot of stalkers.  A lot of stalkers.  Mostly women of various ages, including pedo-noonas, but mostly older teenagers/early 20's stalkers.


Singers that can speak English or Chinese or Japanese are always looked for.  One of the bigger labels has "subunit" that does a song in Mandarin and another subunit that does the Korean version.  A number of groups have Chinese nationals in their group, or even Americans/Canadians of Taiwanese or Chinese or Korean decent.


Anna Kendrick did a Funny or Die skit with F(x) that has 2 Americans (one of Korean, another of Taiwanese decent), another is Chinese, only 2 of the 5 are Korean born and raised.

So maybe Jay C is alluding to "elective" surgery that is popular in SK.


the most popular female group has had the exact same 9 members for their entire 6+ current years together.

It's not extremely uncommon for rock bands to rotate members.  afaik most groups don't lose their main vocalist, I'm barely aware of one Korean group that has a Morning Musume percentage level of turnover.




It's kinda of controlling like NCAA sports, if NCAA sports  made vast, vast, vast, vast, vast improvements.  Also, fanatic jazz aficionados hate KPop like the sheikh hates the crazy casbah sound.

K-pop is even more derivative than J-Pop


though it was a mighty labour to achieve this status.  K-pop has boy bands, in great abundance, each shat from the same corporate ani.

Yea verily


Theres a unique kind if soullessness that comes from formulaically adding too much emotion, ie being cheesy, which is a dominant aesthetic in korea.

... the other day I heard a Korean cover of Whitney Houston's 'the greatest love of all' which was even cheesier and sappier and more hammed up than the original. I was simultaneously impressed and horrified.

You actually listened to a Whitney Houston cover?

brutusettu's picture

At least listen to anyone of the 3 other number one singles on her LP titled simply, Whitney Houston.

Whitney Houston's Greatest Hit?


Her last one. 


B-boom ching.


brutusettu's picture

Gouge away, you can gouge away.


If the Jazz is 5x

Then the JPop is 5

Then Kpop is nothing?


This monkey's changed and ruined Pixies lyrics.



We're not talking about Indian Disco folks, what are those vocals?  What are they? Why?!?!?

We're not all brain dead yet. Bollywood is the bastardised

mmghosh's picture

homage to the culture of an elegant upper class 18th c. Lucknow.


I suppose as modern western is homage to an elegant upper class Vienna - in a very broad sense.


A clip from the best cinematic evocation of how the culture developed over the years.




there’s the fact of having witnessed a film that neither tokenizes nor “others” Muslims, that affirms Indian religio-cultural diversity without recourse to preachy platitudes, and that showcases self-possessed women who manage to get their way.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

"dazzling qawwali performances "????

brutusettu's picture

Why??? Pourquois? ¿por que? Why all the way down. Why?

A qawwali is Sufi mystical music performance, hugely popular

mmghosh's picture

here.  And especially in Pakistan, in Sindh.


I see there is a wiki on Lal Shahbaz Qalandar even.


There are many highly interesting issues with qawwalis - in spite of being heavily frowned upon by Sunni Islamists, it is one of the most popular forms of religious expression among the common folk - and also very popular with huge numbers of Hindus.  For all the talk you hear about Hindu-Muslim conflict (through KSA funded sources, amplified by US dollars) there are enormous syncretist elements here, mostly among the common people who share the music and entertainment space.


So in this particular movie the qawwali is showcased in its secularised version - and very successfully too.  All the music is lifted from real qawwali themes - this is Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

That's better than any Indian Disco I've heard

brutusettu's picture

they're not even close.



Bollywood is a capacious genre. It's many things


and represents many cultures.  At a personal level, I find Bollywood charming and delightful.  I suppose it has its dark side, too, I don't know enough about its internals, surely the money creates its own problems.  But Bollywood thrives because it's so productive:  far more so than Hollywood tent pole productions.  I think it's something like 10 to 1, Bollywood just cranks out this stuff faster than even Off-Broadway can get a show produced, which is the closest comparison I can make to Bollywood.


My money's on India.  For all its manifest problems, India's paradigms of beauty and the joy of life are deeply wise and good.  Which isn't to say Bollywood is some trove of philosophical greatness, it isn't. But here and there, especially seen from afar, there's a romantic humanity to Bollywood we haven't seen in the USA since the era of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and Busby Berkeley.  We could use some more of that seemingly mindless fluff over here in the States.  

Sou desu ne? Buruusu! Teppen. you.


Whatever this ain't, it ain't top shelf blues. 

Romanized Japanese, that helps as much as the kana

brutusettu's picture

...google translate to the rescue.  oh, "really top job blues"


Well, there's no reason to be down, it's time to get up.

Merciful heavens, that was horrible.


I think I can one up the "horrible"

brutusettu's picture

What triumphs of awfulness! What exemplars of corporate cheese!


Brutus, Brutus, you have outdone yourself.

I will note that those are Japanese.

brutusettu's picture

Anthony Bourdain would not approve too.



A bit weird though that he would pick to show a band that could have had a strong longstanding  base ready to go in the US.  All of this has happened before and all of this will happen again.  What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.

J-Pop, K-Pop, What's the Difference? There Were Pretty Women


...bouncing all around, having fun, full of energy.


I am such a punk....lol/;>}}}}



If somehow you didn't dislike that 2nd link

brutusettu's picture

with all the voice effects and whatnot. Really?  C'mon.  But then surely you might like far less voice manipulation.


And if someone still dislikes 3LW, but the thought of them doesn't make one almost throw up in their mouth, and they never hated Blaque, and if they don't have hate in their heart for aegyo, then there's stuff for them.



I Feel Like I'm Getting an Education in Music


...which is not entirely a bad thing.


I really enjoyed the visuals in the first video and the music worked for me...and mid-way through the 3rd link I was good also, but the stop start on that video was....not effective for me.


So I would rate these....from a non-music guy's perspective






If that makes any sense, thanks gotta run.




brutusettu's picture

I Disagree, I Enjoyed the K-Pop of What is Love, The 2nd Link


....I rather found the provided lyrics to be interesting also.


The audience was having an infectiously good time...so did I.


Watching this was a nice break in my work day...not awful at all.


Best Wishes, Traveller

Wrong Country

brutusettu's picture

all 3 of those links were Japanese.



this is Korean, not pop, so therefore it's not more satisfying in a narrower sort of way.  

Here's a little amuse-bouche


Yes, in this case, the stock canard

Jay C's picture

Yes, in this case, the stock (Western) canard of "they all look alike" is very much a feature, not a bug....

Ah.. but having seen one, do you want to see more?


There's the question.  For which K-pop has a new answer, every few months.

Yes, half an hour later...... nt

Jay C's picture


It was all foretold


long ago


The strangeness of the strangers
Second hand teenagers
Face to face they face
A chemical race
Minds blind
Empty eyes
Black tongues ablaze
No names
Breathe in dreams
Stand in line, cracked smiles
Life to life colliders
Solid state survivors
And Marilyn Monroe's not home
So I sit alone with the video
And Tokyo Rose is on the phone
Dressed to kill in her skin tight clothes
Here's to a humanoid boy
Smiling, happy and void
Solid state survivor

How about sickness & death? -nt-



"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Yet such a fix would require more than superficial corrections


of the more-egregious inequities in the system.  Any such fixes are only giving lip service to the fundamental corrections required at a sociopolitical level.  I've been wrestling with an essay for almost a month now, it just keeps growing, about the Revenant State, the failed state which just goes on failing.  I've concluded the USA just might be such a failed state:  as capitalism continues to wring inefficiencies out of the economic system, greater societal inefficiencies spring up to replace them.  One such inefficiency, seemingly immune to market pressures, is health care.  I could go on for a week about why nothing in health care seems to have a price tag on it and not do the subject justice. 

9.5 million


That's how many previously uninsured people have gotten insurance since Obamacare started, according to the LA Times

Rand has been polling 3,300 Americans monthly about their insurance choices since last fall. Researchers found that the share of adults ages 18 to 64 without health insurance has declined from 20.9% last fall to 16.6% as of March 22.


That would make Obamacare the largest expansion of health coverage in this country in half a century.

Republican critics of the law have suggested that the cancellations last fall have led to a net reduction in coverage.


That is not supported by survey data or insurance companies, many of which report they have retained the vast majority of their 2013 customers by renewing old policies, which is permitted in about half the states, or by moving customers to new plans.


Or, to put it another way, Republican critics either lied to the public or they made a stupid mistake, according to the LA Times. And they say modern journalism is a lapdog.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

The Rand and Gallup polling


certainly support a significant drop in the uninsured rate, but the article says the polls are in line with each other, and that means neither suggests an expansion of 9.5 million. 


When I did the #s on the Gallup polling of a drop from 18.0% to 15.9%, it suggests an expansion in the 3 million range. 


I couldn't find a quick source on the total number of 18 - 64 yr olds in America. But with that info. we could do an estimate of the total expansion in that age group, given a drop in the uninsured rate from 20.9% last fall to 16.6% on 3/22. 

There has been a net increase

Bird Dog's picture

But from the exchanges, Levey must've forgot to discount 20% from the 6 million to account for those who signed up but didn't enroll, which means 4.8 million enrollees. Using his 33% figure for those who went from uninsured to insured, the amount is 1.6 million. But this doesn't reflect the fact that the enrollment rates for the uninsured are much lower, at 53% according to McKinsey. So probably around a million actually went from uninsured to insured through the exchanges.

There have been new sign-ups for Medicaid through the exchanges, but the actual number signed up due to Obamacare is a fraction of the 4.5 million figure. But hey, you gotta cheerlead what you can.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

If your complaint is that the expansion isn't large enough


shouldn't you be advocating some alternative? 


I feel like I have a right to complain a bit b/c I wanted universal medicare, starting at birth, which would've insured most of the 45 - 48 million uninsured when the ACA was passed.


Even with a 9.5 million expansion # I feel like I have a right to point out that building this separate machine wasn't the best route.


What's the basis of your criticism?

My complaint is the incompetence that results in...

Bird Dog's picture

...an underwhelming expansion. The CBO projections speak to that.


"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

Similarly, a lot of uninsured people became insured


but NOT through the exchanges, so you're going to have to add at least one more calculation to your formula for proving that Obamacare will end in disaster.  


I won't worry you about previously underinsured people who now have more complete coverage: we'll wait for the real statistics later this year.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

oh.... riiiight...


the "pyongyang times" says so, do they????



“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” -George Bernard Shaw